February 2016 Church & State | People & Events

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has attempted yet again to halt marriage equality in his state.

On Jan. 6, Moore issued an order seemingly out of nowhere that ordered Alabama probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples; the order also stated that an Alabama constitutional amendment and a law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples remain in force – even though federal courts have struck them down.

“Until further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court, the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court 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,” said Moore in an administrative order that came from his office alone, not the full court.

Moore attempted to justify his order on the grounds that the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision in Obergefell v. Hodges only concerned gay marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Critics, including Americans United, were quick to condemn the justice, who seems determined to limit the rights of LGBT people and ignore the Supreme Court.

“I have a news flash for Roy Moore: The U.S. Supreme Court upheld marriage equality in June, and the decision extends nationwide,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, in a statement to the media that was widely picked up. “All Alabama probate judges remain bound by a federal court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

Continued Lynn, “Moore is a dangerous demagogue who seems to believe that he can overrule our nation’s highest court from his legal fiefdom in Montgomery. He can’t, and state and local officials should continue to ignore him.”

Moore’s stunt was just his latest attempt to cause confusion over marriage in Alabama. In January 2015, he wrote a letter to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and urged him to deny same-sex couples the right to marry, even though a federal court had recently struck down the state’s ban on such marriages. Then in February, he ordered lower courts in Alabama to ignore a federal court decision striking down the state’s marriage equality ban and later challenged a related federal court order that instructed probate judges to stop enforcing Alabama’s same-sex marriage prohibition.

The situation remained unsettled as this issue of Church & State went to press.