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Issuance of Same Sex Marriage Licenses Stayed in Alabama
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The Alabama Supreme Court has halted the issuance of marriage licenses to same sex couples.

Summary: A new ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court has ordered that same-sex marriage is not legal, and that probate judges are forbidden from providing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

According to Buzzfeed, the state supreme court in Alabama has ordered all probate judges in the state to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Since a recent United States Supreme Court ruling allowed the state’s bans on same-sex marriages to become effective, many judges had been providing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However, the order from Alabama’s highest court has brought the issuance of these licenses to a halt.

  
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An emergency request was filed with the court by two conservative nonprofits, the Alabama Citizens Action Program and the Alabama Policy Institute. In addition to stopping the issuance of marriage licenses, the order also states that probate judges who want to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples must file a response in five business days as to why they should not have to follow the new court order.

In October, the Supreme Court decided not to hear appeals on same-sex marriage bans, and many states rushed to legalize the marriages.

Since the United States Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the same-sex marriage issue, the Alabama Supreme Court decided that it is able to reach its own conclusion about the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans in the state. Thus, it has ruled that the bans are constitutional in Alabama.

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According to the Washington Post, in January, a U.S. District Court invalidated Alabama’s gay marriage ban. Injunctions in that ruling, which prohibited the enforcement of the ban on same-sex marriage, only applied to a couple of officials, none of which were probate judges. This is how Alabama decided that its judges must stop issuing licenses, since they are not covered by those injunctions.

The justices wrote in the opinion how the conservative groups claimed that “Alabama probate judges are flouting a duty imposed upon them by the [laws and amendment banning same-sex couples’ marriages] and that we should direct the respondent probate judges to perform that duty.”



The court then described the process that allowed same-sex couples to begin marrying in several counties in Alabama, and said that “uncertainty has become the order of the day,” adding that “confusion reigns.”

Just a couple of weeks ago, same-sex couples in Mobile County were slated to receive marriage licenses.

This led the court to conclude that “There is a need for immediate, uniform relief among all the probate judges of this State,” considering the “‘magnitude and importance’ of the issue.”

The court then decided that the groups have the proper standing to bring the lawsuit in the first place, and then analyzes the authority of probate court judges. “The final procedural issue we consider is whether the federal court’s order prevents this Court from acting with respect to probate judges of this State who…are not bound by the order of the federal district court in [the marriage case]…the answer is no.”

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The court explains, “[S]tate courts may interpret the United States Constitution independently from, and even contrary to, federal courts…After careful consideration of the reasoning employed by the federal district court in [the marriage recognition case] we find that the provisions of Alabama law contemplating the issuance of marriage licenses only to opposite-sex couples do not violate the United States Constitution and that the Constitution does not alter or override the ministerial duties of the respondents under Alabama law.”

In the middle of February, Alabama counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In closing, the court ruled, “Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman. Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.”

Judge John Enslen, a probate judge in Elmore County, was originally named as a respondent in the case. Enslen was “realigned” to join the conservative groups because he mostly agreed with their argument.

Judge Don Davis, a probate judge in Mobile County, sought to be dismissed from the case. The Alabama Supreme Court asked the judge if he was bound by the federal court order to grant marriage licenses to all same-sex couples, or just the couples named in the federal case. As of now, it is not clear whether Judge Davis must follow the court’s ruling.

According to ABC News, Chief Justice Roy Moore is openly critical of gay marriage.

Source: Buzzfeed

Photo credit: IBtimes.com



 

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