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Same-Sex Marriages Could Be Halted In Alabama Under Orders Of Chief State's Supreme Court Justice

The legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 was heralded by many as a move towards equality; some couples in Alabama, however, may have to wait a while longer to receive their marriage licenses. On Jan. 6, the state’s Chief State Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore reportedly issued an order banning lower judges from giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

This isn’t the first time Moore has tried to block same-sex marriage. In March 2015 -- three months before the landmark Supreme Court ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which established same-sex marriage as a constitutional right-- the Supreme Court of Alabama upheld the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, according to NPR.

In his most recent order, Moore said, in part, that judges cannot offer marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of a pending case with the state’s Supreme Court.

"Confusion and uncertainty exist among the probate judges of this State as to the effect of Obergefell on the 'existing orders,'" Moore wrote, according to NPR. The "existing orders" refers to the court's decision in March 2015 to uphold the state's same-sex marriage ban.

"I am not at liberty to provide any guidance to Alabama probate judges on the effect of Obergefell on the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court," Moore added. "That issue remains before the entire [Alabama Supreme] Court which continues to deliberate on the matter.”

Despite Moore’s four-page order, his conclusions may not be honored by other judges.

“Ordering the state’s probate judges to refuse to issue marriage licenses to all couples who seek them constitutes an exercise in futility,” Ronald Krotoszynski, a law professor at the University of Alabama, wrote in an email to the New York Times. “At best, it sows chaos and confusion; at worst, it forces couples to bring federal court litigation in order to exercise a clearly established federal constitutional right.”

The chief federal prosecutors in Alabama -- Joyce White Vance of the Northern District of Alabama and Kenyen Brown of the Southern District of Alabama -- issued a statement following Moor's ruling:

The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court has issued an administrative order, directing probate judges that they may not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year on marriage equality. We have grave concerns about this order, which directs Alabama probate judges to disobey the ruling of the Supreme Court. Government officials are free to disagree with the law, but not to disobey it. This issue has been decided by the highest court in the land and Alabama must follow that law.

Sources: New York Times, NPR / Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes/Flickr, Travellerspoint

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