Alabama chief justice: Order against same-sex marriage still in force
by Leigh Jones
Posted 1/06/16, 05:17 pm
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore issued a directive today reminding the state’s probate judges, who issue marriage licenses, that the high court’s order to refuse licenses to same-sex couples remains in effect.
But he stopped short of ordering judges to turn away gay couples. He wrote that he was not, “at liberty to provide any guidance to Alabama probate judges on the effect of (the Supreme Court ruling) on the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court.”
Supporters applauded the letter and called Moore a champion of traditional marriage. Opponents said he was fighting a losing battle. Either way, today’s move isn’t likely to change anything in probate courts across Alabama, where most judges already have issued licenses to same-sex couples. Nine of the state’s 67 counties shut down license operations completely in order to avoid sanctioning gay unions.
Moore’s court issued its order in March after a federal judge overturned the state’s traditional marriage law. But the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in June, and most of Alabama’s probate judges took their cue from that ruling.
The state court asked for briefs as it considered what to do in light of the federal high court’s decision, but it hasn’t issued any decisions on the issue since then. Moore said today’s order was designed to cut through confusion among probate judges.
“Until further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court, the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court that Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or the Alabama Marriage Protection Act remain in full force and effect,” Moore wrote.
The outspoken Alabama chief justice has challenged federal rulings before—but not successfully. Moore was removed from office for refusing to follow a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building. His fight with the feds didn’t hurt him with Alabama voters, who returned him to office several years later.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Leigh is acting managing editor for WORLD Radio. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate who spent six years as a newspaper reporter in Texas before joining WORLD. Leigh also co-wrote Infinite Monster: Courage, Hope, and Resurrection in the Face of One of America's Largest Hurricanes. She resides with her husband and daughter in Houston, Texas.