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Chief Justice Moore Orders Probate Judges to Stop Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Wednesday, January 6, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) issued a ruling to Alabama’s Probate Judges ordering them not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The twice popularly elected Chief Justice wrote that, “The administration of justice in the State of Alabama has been adversely affected by the apparent conflict between the decision of the Alabama Supreme Court in API and the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell (v. Hodges).” Obergefell v. Hodges is the landmark 2015 US Supreme Court ruling that turned millennia of precedent on its head by demanding that states issue state marriage licenses to homosexual couples. Chief Justice Moore, as the Administrative Head of the Unified Judicial System of Alabama, ordered that, “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.”

roy_mooreChief Justice Moore said that the full court is still deliberating on how July’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling affected the state of Alabama and until that time the Probate Judges are ordered not to issue the controversial homosexual marriage licenses.

While Chief Justice Moore appears to believe that there is still some ambiguity in how this may play out in federal court, most analysts tend to believe that ultimately Alabama’s Probate Judges will be forced to issue the same sex marriage licenses, regardless of what the people of Alabama or their Chief Justice may want to happen.

Democratic Party Presidential nomination frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was quick to weigh in on Chief Justice Moore’s administrative ruling. Secretary Clinton in a statement said, “Marriage equality is now the law of the land—including in Alabama. Today’s unconstitutional order reminds us that, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that all Americans have the right to marry the person they love, our work is far from over. There are still judges who are determined to stand in the way of people’s rights. There are still politicians who argue the Court got it wrong and states should ignore its ruling. We need to ensure that marriage equality is guaranteed and enforced nationwide. And we need to fight discrimination against LGBT Americans wherever it occurs. There are places where you can get married on Sunday and are at risk of being fired from your job or evicted from your home on Monday because you’re gay. That’s not how it should be in the United States of America. As President, I’ll fight for the equal rights of all Americans, no matter who they are or who they love.”

The executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, Susan Watson said, “The law is clear and well-settled in Alabama as it is across the country. Bans on marriage for same-sex couples are unconstitutional. Moore’s directive doesn’t hold water because there’s a valid federal court injunction issued July 1, 2015, that we expect probate judges across the state to comply with, overriding anything issued by the Alabama Supreme Court. We hope that this page in our history of singling out gay and lesbian couples and families for discrimination and humiliation will soon be behind us.”

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The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which claims to be the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization, condemned the order by Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore. The HRC’s Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said in a statement, “Yet again, Chief Justice Roy Moore is flagrantly defying the rule of law, and empowering those who wish to stand between same-sex couples and their constitutional right to marry the person they love.” “Regardless of what Roy Moore says, marriage equality is the law of the land. His obstructionist tactics tarnish the reputation of the great state of Alabama, and we urge all of the state’s probate judges to issue licenses to same-sex couples, as is their duty under the law. Moore’s personal opinions are not at issue here. As a judge, he has an obligation to follow the law. If he refuses to do so, he should be removed from office.”

Many political observers expect that Chief Justice Roy Moore (who has twice run for the office in 2006 and 2010) will be a 2018 Alabama gubernatorial candidate.


Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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