February 9, 2015

UPDATE: The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Moore's order this morning, clearing the way for marriages to begin.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has ordered all state probate judges to refuse to issue marriage licenses for same sex marriages in spite of a federal court's order to do so.


Late Sunday night, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore issued an order in which he instructs state probate judges to neither issue nor recognize a marriage license for same-sex couples.

The order states, "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 or § 30-1-19, Ala. Code 1975."

It continues to say that if any probate judge fails to follow the state constitution, "it would be the responsibility of the Chief Executive Officer of the State of Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley... to ensure the execution of the law."

The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta rejected the State of Alabama's request to issue a stay pending an appeal of the State's ban on gay marriage. That rejection paves the way for same-sex marriages to begin on Monday.

You may recall Judge Moore from the fight over his insistence that the Ten Commandments be on display in his courtroom. Now it seems he's willing to cause a constitutional crisis over same sex marriage.

Matt D. Pearce at the LA Times has more:

The order by Moore, a well-known conservative firebrand, marks the most drastic protest yet to a wave of federal rulings that have struck down such bans as unconstitutional over the last year.

Other states and conservative groups had sought to fight federal rulings by appealing to federal appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, whose mandates take precedence over state law.

Moore's order, however, argues that if the state issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples – before the U.S. Supreme Court makes a widely expected ruling on same-sex marriage months from now – the state's argument in favor of a ban would be "mooted," undermining the legal process.

To preserve legal harmony in the state, Moore said, he was ordering local judges to ignore the federal ruling.

Well, bless his heart. Wasn't that considerate of him?

The Southern Poverty Law Center reacted swiftly:

"He is the ayatollah of Alabama," Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said of Moore in a phone interview with the Los Angeles Times late Sunday. Cohen added: “I think it’s nothing short of amazing. He’s talking about how the federal court sowed confusion – he’s the source of confusion by doing all these crazy things. ... He’s much better suited to being the chief pastor of Alabama than he is being the chief justice of Alabama.

This story is still unfolding. We'll update with any new developments as they occur.

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