Following a historic Supreme Court ruling in June, marriage equality has been the law of the land in the United States for over six months. A few politicians still whine about it – Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio still believes he can turn back the clock and end equal marriage rights – but most of the country realizes that this aspect of the culture war is over.
But then there’s Alabama, where the chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court ordered probate judges yesterday to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. MSNBC’s Emma Margolin reported:
In his order, Roy Moore – the Republican chief justice who made headlines last year for similarly standing in the way of same-sex nuptials in Alabama – said that the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision only struck down the four same-sex marriage bans that were specifically challenged in the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges. That lawsuit was a consolidated challenge to bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee – not Alabama.Therefore, Moore wrote, Alabama probate judges still have a “ministerial duty” to comply with an order issued by the state Supreme Court last March to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses.
For those unfamiliar with Moore, it’s worth noting that his legal views tend to be … how do I put this gently … unique. Alabama’s chief justice, who’s already been thrown off the court once for defying court rulings he found objectionable, has argued repeatedly, for example, that states can ignore federal court rulings whenever they choose.
He’s also sometimes known as the “Ten Commandments Judge,” willing to use his position as a judge to advance his religious agenda. Now the jurist wants Alabama to ignore a U.S. Supreme Court ruling he finds objectionable.
In other words, Moore, widely seen as a crackpot by America’s legal mainstream, is not to be taken seriously. The problem, of course, is that he’s still the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, who just issued an order to probate judges statewide.
As of this morning, they’re not entirely sure whether to follow the law or follow Roy Moore’s bonkers interpretation of the law.
Chris Stoll, senior attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told MSNBC that local judges who follow Moore’s lead are “exposing themselves to risk of contempt sanctions.”
What’s next? Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, who said Moore’s order “reads like a senior prank by an underachieving high school student,” explained that the state Chief Justice is working from the assumption that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage “remains in force until the Alabama supreme court strikes it down.”
That’s not how the American system works, but that’s Moore’s line and he’s sticking to it.
According to a report from the Alabama Media Group, as of this morning, three Alabama counties – Madison, Mobile, and Elmore – are “no longer permitting gay couples to wed.” The piece added that the state’s system “has been thrown back into chaos.”