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Alabama Judges Issue 'Last Ditch' Order to Halt Gay Marriage

Rights groups denounce Alabama court for being 'on the wrong side of history'

Equal rights advocates rally in Washington D.C. in March 2013. (Photo: Elvert Barnes/cc/flickr)

Equal rights advocates rally in Washington D.C. in March 2013. (Photo: Elvert Barnes/cc/flickr)

Defying the nation's highest court, the Alabama Supreme Court late Tuesday issued an order for state probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Alabama justices voted 7-1 in an "emergency petition," brought to two private-interest groups that oppose the freedom to marry. In the decision (pdf), the court ruled that "Alabama law allows for 'marriage' between only one man and one woman," and that the state’s probate judges "have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law."

The state court further ruled that state probate judges were not legally bound by a January decision by U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade, which struck down Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage. "State courts may interpret the United States Constitution independently from, and even contrary to, federal courts," the Alabama justices wrote.

Following Granade's decision, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange filed a motion to temporarily stay that ruling until the highly-anticipated U.S. Supreme Court gay marriage decision. However, that bid was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in early February.

Since that time, at least 48 of Alabama’s 67 counties had begun issuing licenses to all couples, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign.

In a statement following Tuesday's ruling, Evan Wolfson, founder and president of national equal rights group Freedom to Marry said: "The Alabama Supreme Court has done a disservice to itself, not to mention a massive injustice to the people of Alabama, in allowing itself to be used to temporarily obstruct the freedom to marry...This flouting of the Constitution and travesty of justice will not stand."

Ben Cooper, board chair of Equality Alabama, said that the latest action by the court is "nothing but an attempt at delaying the happiness that all families deserve—a last-ditch effort to stand in the way of the love we've seen in these historic weeks."

"As we get closer to the day the freedom to marry comes to all 50 states—the Alabama Supreme Court is on the wrong side of history," Cooper continued. "Every day of denial is a day of harm for Alabama families."

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