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Alabama chief justice bans clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses

Alabama’s probate courts may not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court has ordered.

Chief Justice Roy Moore ruled Wednesday (Jan. 6) that Alabama’s Marriage Protection Act, which bars such unions, remains “in full force and effect” despite a June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down similar laws banning same-sex marriage in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, according to USA Today.

“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 in the order.

Alabama is faced with conflicting rulings, between an earlier decision of Alabama’s Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, Moore wrote. Until the Alabama court acts to resolve the conflict, its earlier decision stands, Moore wrote.

Moore has challenged federal rulings before but they were not successful. He was Alabama’s chief justice in 2003, when a state judicial panel removed him because he refused to obey a federal judge’s order to remove a 5,200-pound granite Ten Commandments monument from the lobby of the Alabama Judicial Building. He was re-elected to the post in 2012.

Reaction on social media was swift from both sides in the marriage debate.

Supporters were pleased with the ruling and called Moore a defender of traditional marriage. Opponents of the ruling said Moore does not have the authority to override higher courts and it was a non-issue.

Most Alabama judges have already issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. According to World, nine of the state’s 67 counties shut down license operations completely in order to avoid sanctioning gay unions.

— by Cathy Lynn Grossman | RNS

CNJ staff added to this report

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