Alabama Supreme Court Defies Federal Judge's Gay Marriage Ruling

Alabama's highest court once again ordered judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, defying a federal judge who struck down the state's ban on such unions as unconstitutional and ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to intervene.
by | March 4, 2015 AT 10:50 AM

By James Queally and Ryan Parker

Alabama's highest court once again ordered judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, defying a federal judge who struck down the state's ban on such unions as unconstitutional and ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to intervene.

In a 148-page ruling published Tuesday night, eight of the court's nine justices called for judges in the state not to issue licenses to same-sex couples, restarting a legal battle that erupted in January when U.S. District Judge Callie Granade rejected the state's voter-approved gay-marriage ban.

"As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for 'marriage' between only one man and one woman. Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law," the opinion reads. "Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty."

Alabama had asked the U.S. Supreme Court last month to suspend Granade's ruling, but the high court refused.

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has repeatedly ordered probate judges, who issue marriage licenses in the state, not to give licenses to same-sex couples. Even after the U.S. Supreme Court let Granade's ruling stand, some probate judges refused to issue licenses. Granade held another hearing and ordered the judges to comply with her order.

The state Supreme Court's ruling was met with frustration by gay rights advocates.

"The Alabama Supreme Court led by Roy Moore did not even ask for briefing on the constitutional questions it rushed to get wrong," Evan Wolfson, founder and president of the advocacy group Freedom To Marry, said on his Twitter account.

Susan Watson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Alabama, said her office was reviewing the decision and declined to comment further.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times