The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday refused to stay a federal ruling that struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex nuptials, positioning the Deep South state to become the 37th in the nation where gay and lesbian couples can legally wed. Hours later, Alabama's Republican Attorney General Luther Strange filed an emergency motion for a stay with the U.S. Supreme Court, the state's last hope of blocking marriage equality from going forward next week.
U.S. District Judge Callie V. S. Granade, a President George W. Bush appointee, overturned Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage on Jan. 23, just one week after the nation’s highest court decided to take up a marriage equality case this term. Though she initially did not put a hold on the effect of her ruling, Granade said in an order issued three days later that she would give the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals until Feb. 9 to decide whether it would block same-sex couples from marrying during the appeals process.
A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit on Tuesday denied a request from Attorney General Strange to extend that stay, clearing the way for gay and lesbian couples to begin marrying in Alabama next week. It marks the second time the 11th Circuit has denied such a request, following its decision to let marriage equality go forward in Florida. The U.S. Supreme Court, which is now considering the state's emergency motion for a stay, has also allowed marriage equality to go forward in several states recently.
The fight over marriage equality in Alabama has been particularly ugly, with the state’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore urging Republican Gov. Robert Bentley to resist “such tyranny” imposed by “judicial fiat.” On the flip side, Alabama’s first openly gay lawmaker, state Rep. Patricia Todd, threatened to expose the extramarital affairs of some of her colleagues who oppose same-sex marriage.
Thirty-six states, plus the District of Columbia, currently allow same-sex couples to legally wed. In April, the Supreme Court will hear challenges to same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, and potentially decide once and for all whether gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to wed.