The Alabama Supreme Court has just ordered probate judges to cease issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the Supreme Court's ruling.
Same-sex couples cannot marry in Alabama today.
Despite Friday's historic landmark Supreme Court ruling that found states cannot ban marriage from same-sex couples, the Alabama Supreme Court has done just that, and ordered probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately. Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has become a farcical name in the battle against marriage equality, recused himself from today's order, but stated his Court's order halts all same-sex marriages.
Today's order claims that parts of the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges are subject to appeal, according to AL.com, which legally is highly-unlikely.
"I am not real clear what it's saying .. it's very unclear," Jefferson County Probate Judge Sherri Friday told AL.com.
The order is effective for the next 25 days.
UPDATE I: 2:00 PM EDT –
HRC president Chad Griffin quotes Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner's interpretation of the order, which contradicts Justice Moore's claim, above:
Important to get the facts out there. Probate judges in Alabama SHOULD NOT stop issuing marriage licenses. https://t.co/chS4UEojrh— Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin) June 29, 2015
UPDATE II: 2:19 PM EDT –
AL.com adds this confusing sentence to its story:
"Basically it states that in the court's judgment it (the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Friday) is tabled effective until after the hearing (before the Alabama Supreme Court)," Moore said. "It's not in effect until after this hearing in this 25 day period."
This is far from the first time Alabama and Justice Moore have made statements leading to mass confusion in that state on marriage.
UPDATE III: 2:53 PM EDT –
AL.com adds more:
One attorney, however, disagreed with the interpretation of the Alabama Supreme Court's ruling.
"The Alabama Supreme Court did not direct probate judges to delay compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision," said Birmingham area attorney Heather Fann. "This order has no practical effect. U.S. District Court Judge (Ginny) Granade already ordered Alabama's probate judges to stop enforcing the marriage ban as soon as the Supreme Court rule, and that is binding immediately."
Also, HRC weighs in:
HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow issued the following statement:
“There is no justification for delaying or obstructing the clear message of the Supreme Court of the United States—marriage equality must begin in Alabama, and probate judges who stand in the way of that legal imperative risk exposing themselves to legal consequences. There is zero chance of marriage equality being reheard by the Supreme Court—particularly given that all four states that were parties in this case have accepted the outcome—and as a result the Court's holding in Obergefell v. Hodeges should be implemented across the country immediately.”
So, bottom line, Chief Justice Roy Moore and his Alabama Supreme Court have again sowed confusion and likely, fear, into Alabama probate court judges, forcing them to decide if they should follow Moore or the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last time this happened, some probate judges announced they would not issue any marriage licenses to any couples, regardless of gender.
Obviously, this is developing. Stay tuned for more.
UPDATE IV: 4:33 PM EDT –
And, as promised, more Moore:
Watch: Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore Claims Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Not In Effect
Bottom line, one more time: Moore is, we believe, merely sticking to the technical claim that states Supreme Court rulings are not official until they are finalized, 25 days later. Of course, he did his best to confuse and be obtuse, likely creating heartache, upset, and frustration for many, not the least of which are the probate judges, who are forced to choose sides. Moore should be providing clarity, but he chose not to.
UPDATE V: 6:57 PM EDT –
(But his mission was accomplished.)