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Alabama defies U.S. Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling

Despite the 2015 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage in Oklahoma and nationwide, on Jan. 6, the chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court ordered the state's judges not to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. He noted that the high court of Alabama upheld the state's same-sex marriage ban in March 2015 and claimed that decision should supersede the federal ruling until further notice.

In his administrative order, Chief Justice Roy S. Moore also said that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling possibly applies to only the same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, which are the states named in the landmark Obergefell case. He said that the "legal analysis is yet to be determined" by the Alabama Supreme Court, and that state probate judges have a "ministerial duty" not to honor the U.S. Supreme Court decision until the state's high court settles the matter.

Moore has placed state judges in difficult positions over the issue of same-sex marriage before. In early 2015, a U.S. district court judge ruled that Alabama's same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, but Moore told probate judges that they didn't have to obey that decision. He also fought federal authority 20 years ago when he put a plaque in the state judicial building listing the Ten Commandments and then later put a monument to those edicts in the state judicial building. He was forced to step down as chief justice after he refused a federal order to remove it. Alabama voters re-elected him in 2012.

As this ruling demonstrates, gay and lesbian couples still face many legal hurdles despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality. Same-sex couples facing legal issues, including divorce and custody disputes, may find it helpful to consult with a family law attorney.

Source: NPR, "Alabama Chief Justice Orders Judges To Enforce Ban On Same-Sex Marriage," Camila Domonoske, Jan. 6, 2016

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