MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore on Wednesday said state probate judges remain under a court order to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples even though a US. Supreme Court decision effectively legalized same-sex marriage more than six months ago.
The outspoken chief justice, who previously tried to block gay marriage from coming to the Deep South state, issued an administrative order saying the Alabama Supreme Court never lifted a March directive to probate judges to refuse licenses to gay couples.
“Until further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court, the existing orders … that Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or the Alabama Marriage Protection Act remain in full force and effect,” Moore wrote.
But the chief justice stopped short of directly ordering judges to refuse the licenses. He wrote in his order that he was not “at liberty to provide any guidance to Alabama probate judges on the effect of (the Supreme Court ruling) on the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court.”
Nonetheless, at least three Alabama counties suspended all marriage license operations — not issuing licenses to anyone— as a result of his order.
The state Supreme Court issued its directive to refuse licenses to gay couples at the request of a conservative group after a federal judge ruled in January 2015 that the state’s gay-marriage ban was illegal. Months later, in June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide.
The state court had asked for briefs on how to proceed after the U.S. high court ruling, but never issued any follow-up orders. Moore said he was issuing his latest administrative order on Wednesday because there was “confusion” among probate judges on how to proceed. Moore told the Montgomery Advertiser (on.mgmadv.com/1ZOdcG7) he didn’t mean to defy the U.S. Supreme Court as he sought to clarify conflicting orders.
Susan Watson, director of the ACLU of Alabama, said it was Moore who was creating confusion, but she also predicted that his order would have little effect. Watson noted that the same federal judge who initially overturned Alabama’s gay marriage ban also issued an injunction prohibiting probate judges from enforcing the ban.