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Judge reminds Alabama: court rulings are not suggestions

In theory, the legal dispute surrounding marriage laws in Alabama is over. In practice, well, we'll see.
Milton Persinger, left, and Robert Povilat wait for a marriage license at the Mobile County Probate office, Feb. 10, 2015, in Mobile, Ala. (Photo by Sharon Steinmann/AP)
Milton Persinger, left, and Robert Povilat wait for a marriage license at the Mobile County Probate office, Feb. 10, 2015, in Mobile, Ala.
Alabama found itself facing untenable legal circumstances this week. Federal courts ruled that the state's ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional, and same-sex couples seeking to wed could do so effective Monday, Feb. 9. Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R), however, issued a decree ordering local judges to ignore the federal courts.
The result was a bizarre patchwork: some Alabama counties honored the court rulings, some listened to Moore, and some stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether.
Yesterday brought some clarity to the matter.

The same federal judge who struck down Alabama's same-sex marriage ban last month has ordered a probate judge to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. The action, marriage equality advocates hope, will settle days of confusion across the state over whether same-sex couples can receive marriage licenses in all of Alabama's 67 counties.

In an eight-page court order, U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade, appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, explicitly told Alabama judges that this matter is not optional.
At one point, with just a hint of annoyance, Granade's order said, "[T]he court once again makes the following declarations...." Left unsaid , "Maybe you guys didn't understand me the first time."
In theory, this should bring the matter to a close, but given recent events, I say that with some trepidation. After all, if this week has made one thing clear it's that some officials in Alabama simply don't care about federal courts or the supremacy of federal law over state law. One local judge specifically said this week, "I'm not worried about following the U.S. Constitution."
That said, after yesterday's federal court order, those in Alabama who refuse to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples have to realize that their defiance will likely lead to contempt charges.
As for Roy Moore, who continues to believe federal courts are incapable of striking down state laws, the unhinged jurist isn't backing down.

On gay marriage, it is all over but the shouting. But there will be some shouting. Nothing proved that more this week than when same-sex marriage arrived in Alabama, which ultimately led to an epic and at times rambling 20-minute-plus conversation Thursday between Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and CNN's Chris Cuomo. It was repetitive, in the weeds, and in some ways futile, foreshadowing the type of framing at least some prominent conservatives will maintain as they keep up the fight against same-sex marriage.

The transcript of the 20-minute interview is online here, though it's not easy reading. Long-story short, Moore mentioned Dred Scott eight times, apparently in the hopes of convincing people that there's nobility in ignoring federal court rulings.