Alabama Justice Denies Gays Marriage Rights

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore ruled Wednesday to uphold the illegality of same-sex marriage in the state. In a four page administrative order, he declared that probate judges have a duty to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples.

Moore’s decision conflicts with the US Supreme Court ruling from June that all states must grant same-sex couples a marriage license.

At least three Alabama counties are denying gay couples marriage in response. Nine counties shut down their marriage licensing entirely immediately after the Supreme Court’s landmark 5-4 ruling.

Most judges in Alabama’s 67 counties are still issuing same-sex couples marriage licenses.

Moore wrote, “Until further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court, the existing orders … 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.”  The state high court had upheld both laws in a ruling from January. The laws affirmed that “marriage is inherently a unique relationship between a man and a woman.”

(Justice Moore explains in January that he upheld Alabama’s ban on gay marriage out of concern it might set a precedent for legalized incest.)

US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy penned the opinion in support of gay marriage.

Yet the chief justice stopped short of directly ordering judges to deny gays’ marriage. He said he wasn’t “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.” Instead he claimed confusion over the US high court’s lack of guidance. He argued that a legal judgement “only binds the parties to the case before the court,” not states.

Critics are convinced Moore’s ruling will have little effect. Sue Watson, director of the Alabama ACLU said Justice Moore is only creating confusion. Scott McCoy, senior staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said his ruling is a “dead letter.” He warned that judges who don’t issue gays marriage licenses risk contempt charges. The group Americans United for Separation of Church and State called Moore’s order “a pathetic gesture that is doomed to fail.”

Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a forceful majority opinion in the ruling to legalize gay marriage. He cited the 14th Amendment, upholding equal protection under the law, and compared laws against gay marriage with those barring

interracial marriage. “The nature of marriage is that, through

Justice Moore stands before a controversial monument to the Ten Commandments.

Justice Moore stands before a controversial monument to the Ten Commandments.

its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.”

Moore is a conservative Christian with a history of defying federal rulings. He was previously removed as Alabama chief justice in 2003 when he refused to comply with court orders to take down a monument bearing the Ten Commandments.


Image sources:

Pixabay (featured image)

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