On Tuesday, March 3, 2015 the Alabama Supreme Court ordered county probate judges to uphold the state ban on same-sex marriage until a final ruling is issued by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The decision challenges an order, made by U.S. District Judge Callie Granade on January 23, which overturned Alabama’s ban on gay marriage.
Calhoun County Probate Judge Alice Martin and probate judges statewide had stopped issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples a day after the Alabama Supreme Court made its decision. The probate court in Mobile County has chosen to protest the ruling by not issuing marriage licenses to heterosexual or same-sex couples.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in April on whether gay couples nationwide have a fundamental right to marry and whether states can ban those unions.
Before the ruling last Tuesday, 48 of the state’s 67 counties were acknowledging that Alabama had become the 37th U.S. state where gays can legally wed, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for gay marriage nationwide.
In the ruling, the Court granted an emergency petition by two anti-LGBT groups, the Alabama Policy Institute and Alabama Citizens Action Program, who sought to stop probate judges from issuing marriage licenses across the state.
Tuesday’s decision stated that probate judges would have five days to submit responses if they want to show cause why they should be able to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. “Judge Martin had no immediate plans to submit such a response, and that Martin’s decision not to do so was in line with the decisions of most of the state’s probate judges,” Shirley Miller, chief clerk at the Probate Office of Calhoun County said, according to a story by The Anniston Star from March 5.
“Six of the court’s nine justices concurred in yesterday’s opinion. A seventh concurred in part and there was a single dissent, based not on constitutional issues but a contention that the court did not have jurisdiction,” according to an article by The Washington Post from March 4. Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has spoken openly against same-sex marriage, did not take part in the ruling.
“The Alabama State Supreme Court does not have the authority to interfere with a federal court order,” Human Rights Campaign legal director Sarah Warbelow told al.com.,“This order is outrageous and baffling, and no amount of legalese can hide the bare animus that forms the foundation of this extralegal ruling.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the issue of same-sex marriage nationwide by June, and a ruling in favor of those marriages could strike down every state ban simultaneously.