Where is Governor Bentley in same-sex marriage dispute?

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Both Chief Justice Roy Moore and Attorney General Luther Strange have specifically referred to Governor Robert Bentley in statements this week, putting a lot of the responsibility for the way forward on him.

However, Bentley’s statement on Monday, in the height of the confusion, primarily consoled probate judges that he would not be coming after them legally, no matter what choice they make. However, later comments from the governor may give more insight into his approach to the issue.

WHNT News 19 Political Analyst Jess Brown says Governor Robert Bentley’s response may have more to do with the ghost of another governor.

Of course, Brown refers to the specter of George Wallace’s stand in the schoolhouse door. He says it earned Alabama a label as “a place that tolerated and promoted racial bigotry.”

Brown argues that moment, singular and effectively meaningless in preventing integration, defined our reputation. He adds, “That stain has been on our state for a long time.”

In Brown’s opinion, our current governor doesn’t want to refresh that stain, “I think the governor is making it clear that he’s focused on economic development.”

Let’s take a moment from Tuesday, where Bentley answers a question on gay marriage. He says,”I don’t want Alabama portrayed in a negative light, because when it’s portrayed in a negative light, it hurts me recruiting jobs in Alabama. And so I’m hurting families when I can’t help people get a job in this state.”

Bentley spends a lot of time selling state jobs programs to potential employers. Brown points out, “These businesses aren’t necessarily based in Mississippi or South Carolina . . . He’s perhaps having to negotiate and deal with people from California and Massachusetts.

So while in the past, our governor has staked a claim in history, becoming an enduring symbol of resistance, our current governor takes pains to portray the exact opposite.

In the previously mentioned answer to the same-sex marriage question, Bentley continues, “I want to do everything I can to make sure that the people across the country, the people across the world, that Alabama is a different state. And we respect the rule of law. And that’s what I’m going to do.”

Brown says the government may also be looking ahead to an important legislative session, perhaps the most critical since 1987, “He’s got a lot of fish to fry on trying to get votes to solve a General Fund problem.”

Brown contrasts the budget issues with the same-sex marriage debate, “The only influence the governor of Alabama can have on gay marriage is to put in his two-cents worth like I can put in mine or you can put in yours. He will not be substantially impacting the outcome of whether we have gay marriage in Alabama or we don’t.”

The governor could temporarily intervene, but it wouldn’t mean much in the long run, as federal courts will decide the ultimate outcome. Meanwhile, if he decided to force the hands of probates into issuing licenses to same-sex couples, he could see a whole new problem when he needs focus.

Brown elaborates, “When trying to deal with the general fund problem in a matter of a few weeks, he also doesn’t want a huge march on the state capital by a group of Baptist ministers who are outraged at the governor being pro-gay marriage. He doesn’t want that.”

Brown emphasizes same-sex marriage as an issue is important, but the governor has no real say.  However, the budget that has to make it through the state legislature will also be important, and if he saves his political capital, Bentley could shape it in a big way.

When weighing in on this weighty issue, the governor has a lot more to consider than just moral implications.