Birmingham city workers covered the Confederate Monument in Linn Park in August 2017. It took the workers about 45 minutes to erect the 12×16 foot plywood enclosure around the base of the monument. (Joe Songer|[email protected]) (Joe Songer | [email protected])
By Anna Beahm | [email protected], AL.COM
The Alabama Supreme Court has granted the State of Alabama’s motion to stay last month’s Jefferson County Circuit Court judgment that declared the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017 unconstitutional, Attorney General Steve Marshall announced Friday.
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Judge Michael Graffeo issued the order on Jan. 14 just before midnight. The order came over a year after the state sued the city for violating the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act– a law to prohibit local governments from moving historical monuments on public property that have been in place for 40 years or more. The act also prohibits renaming buildings and streets with historical names that have been in place at least 40 years.
“I am pleased that the Alabama Supreme Court has granted the State’s motion to stay the Circuit Court’s ruling,” Marshall said in a statement Friday night. “We think that U.S. Supreme Court precedent clearly demonstrates that the Circuit Court erred in striking down the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act. Thus, we asked the Alabama Supreme Court to preserve the status quo regarding the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Linn Park until the Court rules on our appeal.
“The Supreme Court’s stay allows the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act to remain in effect until the Supreme Court resolves this appeal over the Act’s constitutionality. We continue to hold that the Circuit Court erred when it ruled that the U.S. Constitution grants cities free speech rights that they can enforce against the State. For more than a century, the U.S. Supreme Court has held just the opposite, recognizing that ‘a political subdivision, created by the state for the better ordering of government, has no privileges or immunities under the federal constitution which it may invoke in opposition to the will of its creator.’ We look forward to presenting these arguments to the Alabama Supreme Court.”
The stay was filed at 4:23 p.m. Friday.
Gov. Kay Ivey signed the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017 into law on May 24, 2017. The law prohibits local governments from moving historical monuments on public property that have been in place for 40 years of more. It also prohibits renaming buildings and streets with historical names that have been in place at least 40 years.
In August 2017, months after the law was enacted, then-Birmingham mayor William Bell ordered the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Linn Park covered with plastic, and later plywood, while lawyers could consider legal options. While some called for the statue to be torn down, Bell said he wouldn’t break the law to remove the monument.
The Alabama Attorney General’s Office quickly filed a lawsuit against the city for violating state law, but Birmingham’s city attorneys claimed the Memorial Preservation Act is “vague and ambiguous.” Attorneys for both sides argued at a hearing in April 2018 on part of the law that says protected monuments cannot be “altered or otherwise disturbed.”
Graffeo said the act violates the Fourteenth Amendment because the state was seeking at least $25,000 in fines from the city and also seeks to control what the city can build on Linn Park, but the act offers no due process. The act allows cities to apply for a waiver on certain structures, but Birmingham could not apply for that waiver because the Linn Park monument is over 40 years old. That part of the law is “overbroad and unreasonable,” the judge said.