As of a few weeks ago, the status of marriage rights in Alabama was no longer in dispute, despite some strange legal wrangling. Federal courts had struck down the state ban on marriage equality, and though Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) tried to intervene, telling state courts to ignore federal court rulings, U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade, appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, explicitly told Alabama that this matter is not optional.
And so, Alabama joined the growing collection of states in which same-sex marriage is now legal. That is, until last night.
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. [...] "...Each such probate judge is temporarily enjoined from issuing any marriage license contrary to Alabama law as explained in this opinion," [the Alabama justices] wrote.
State Supreme Court justices in Alabama are elected, and in the current makeup of the court, all nine jurists are Republicans.
The case was brought to the state court by a group called Liberty Counsel, an organization created in part by Jerry Falwell's ministry.
So what happens now? According to a report from al.com:
The order gives probate judges five days to submit responses if they want to show cause why they should be able to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
This won't work and it can't end well. In effect, the state Supreme Court is, once again, telling local judges to ignore federal court rulings.
Marriage equality is now legal in Alabama. We know this to be true because federal courts, which trump state courts, have said so unambiguously. I can appreciate why state probate judges may feel conflicted, and the Supreme Court's interference injects confusion and uncertainty into a straightforward legal process, but those who choose to defy federal court rulings tend to face harsh consequences.