The Alabama Supreme Court ordered all the state's probate judges late Tuesday to stop issuing marriages licenses to same-sex couples, the latest in a growing legal tussle playing out in Alabama over whether the decisions of federal justices trump those made by state judges.
The clash of federal versus state rights is also playing out nationwide as states opposed to same-sex marriage try to block federal court decisions throwing out gay marriage bans.
In Alabama, a series of state and federal judges have gone back and forth over the issue, with the U.S. Supreme Court recently refusing to block a U.S. District Court judge's ruling — a move that allowed gay marriage to begin there on Feb. 9.
But the state supreme court's decision threw the issue into question once more. The challenge was brought by the state and a county probate judge, among others. In its ruling, the Alabama Supreme Court said that all of the state's probate judges, including those listed as "Judge Does" in the legal filings, "are ordered to discontinue the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples."
" … Each such probate judge is temporarily enjoined from issuing any marriage license contrary to Alabama law as explained in this opinion," they wrote.
Lawyers who represented the same-sex couples seeking the right to marry in Alabama decried the ruling, which comes ahead of an expected U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer on whether or not gays and lesbians can get married nationwide.
"It is deeply unfortunate that even as nationwide marriage equality is on the horizon, the Alabama Supreme Court is determined to be on the wrong side of history," Sharon Minter, of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement. "The Court's action displays a callous disregard for the impact of this gratuitous decision on same-sex couples and their families, but those families should take heart that this is only a stumble along the way toward equality."
At least 36 states, plus the District of Columbia, allow gay marriage.