Alabama Supreme Court orders judges to stop issuing same-sex marriage licences

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Alabama Judicial Building, home of the Alabama Supreme Court
Image: Chris Pruitt.

The Supreme Court of Alabama yesterday ordered all judges to halt in issuing same-sex marriage licenses in the state. The ruling goes against an earlier order by the United States Supreme Court, allowing judges to issue same-sex couples a marriage license.

The ruling said "As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman. Alabama[...] judges have a[...] duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty."

David Kennedy, a lawyer who represented an Alabama couple who fought an earlier court ruling, said "I don't really think that they can do that. I'm not surprised, but I'm somewhat appalled. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the stay (on the order striking down the gay marriage ban) would expire on Feb. 9. On Feb. 9, same-sex marriage effectively became legal in Alabama". He added "Whenever state law conflicts with federal law, federal law wins".

The issue of same-sex marriage has been contested over recent months. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore had told judges not to issue licenses. The national Supreme Court intervened in January, deeming Moore's decision unconstitutional. Moore was not among the judges behind the latest decision. Of the 67 state counties, only a third of them began to issue same-sex marriage licences.

The status of the licenses that have already been issued in Alabama hasn't been made clear. The Alabama Supreme Court said that the pre-issued licenses were "purported". On this issue, Kennedy said "These people are married. There's nothing the Alabama Supreme Court can do to overturn that."