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Alabama Chief Justice: State Judges Cannot Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Despite Federal Court Approval

( [email protected] ) Feb 09, 2015 10:17 AM EST
In a move that has poured even more fuel to the fiery issue of same-sex marriage across the United States, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has prohibited judges in that state to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
Supporters of gay marriage hold rainbow-colored flags as they rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington March 27, 2013. (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

In a move that has poured even more fuel to the fiery issue of same-sex marriage across the United States, Alabama's top judge has prohibited judges in that state to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

The order, which was issued by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, came in defiance of a federal ruling that would allow gays and lesbians to marry in the state. According to Margaret Newkirk and Andrew M. Harris of Bloomberg, the federal ruling would have taken effect on Monday.

"The opinions of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama do not bind the state courts of Alabama but only serve as persuasive authority," the chief justice and 67-year-old Republican said.

According to Bloomberg, U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade issued an order on Jan. 23 that struck down Alabama's same-sex marriage ban. Miranda Leitsinger of NBC News reported that the judge's decision, according to Moore, was "creating confusion and disarray in the administration of the law."

"Effective immediately, no Probate Judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama Probate Judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent with Article 1, Section 36.03, of the Alabama Constitution," Moore wrote in his ruling.

Moore added that "a marriage contracted between individuals of the same sex is invalid in this state."

According to Kelsey Stein of AL.com, Moore wrote in his order that if any judge defied his order, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley would be responsible for ensuring that state law is "faithfully executed."

Stein noted that some people, like Jefferson County Probate Judge Alan King, were surprised by Moore's hastily-published ruling.

"I only found out Justice Moore had issued his order a little before 10 p.m.," King said. "At first glance, my legal analysis is do we in Jefferson County follow a valid federal court order or do we follow an order by one member, albeit the chief justice, of the Alabama Supreme Court?"

King added that while he plans "to follow Judge Granade's order," he noted that "a final decision will be made before 8 a.m."

According to Stein, an attorney who represented the couple involved in the ruling that ended the ban, labeled Moore's order a "George Wallace move." Attorney David Kennedy added that it was the most direct act of defiance toward the federal government he's seen since the 1960s, when the former Alabama governor infamously stood in the schoolhouse door resisting public school integration.

"I think it's absolutely stunning that our state's highest jurists would just advocate for ignoring a federal court order. Judge Granade's order is law of the land," Kennedy said. "It's not up for debate. It's alarming."

Kennedy contended that Moore, the chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court, lacked the authority under state law to issue such an order to probate court judges.

"That's not how our judicial system works," Kennedy said.

Bloomberg reported that Moore is no stranger to controversy. Alabama's chief justice, who occupies an elected position, was ousted back in 2003 for defying a federal court order to remove a five-ton granite monument of the Ten Commandments from his courthouse; he won the job back again in 2012 on a shoestring campaign.  

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