Alabama's antigay chief justice, Roy Moore, told his state's probate judges today to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples because he's still not convinced that the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision applies to Alabama, reports Buzzfeed.
Moore contends clarification is needed on whether the pro-marriage equality ruling in Obergefell applied to just the states of Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, where bans to marriage equality were challenged and condensed in the case. All 50 states and Puerto Rico began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples within weeks of the Obergefell ruling in June. There were high-profile exceptions like the case of Rowan County clerk Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses in Kentucky to gay and bisexual couples and was eventually jailed for denying the orders of the Supreme Court.
Still, Moore says a direct order is needed by a court with jurisdiction over the matter of marriage in Alabama, likely the Supreme Court. In his Wednesday order, Moore declared:
“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.”
Alabama has long been ordered to follow the rulings of federal courts, even as a result of marriage cases leading up to June's landmark decision. After the Supreme Court's ruling in June, Moore caused havoc in Alabama when he insisted probate judges weren't bound by federal precedent. Some counties started issuing licenses anyway, while others refused. As a result, he was once again challenged in 2015 on ethics charges.
Moore, who claimed this summer that marriage equality would lead to the destruction of the nation, was once before removed from his position as chief justice over ethics charges for refusing to remove a religious monument from a courthouse.
The Human Rights Campaign called on probate judges to ignore confusion being fomented by Moore.
“Yet again, Chief Justice Roy Moore is flagrantly defying the rule of law, and empowering those who wish to stand between same-sex couples and their constitutional right to marry the person they love,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Regardless of what Roy Moore says, marriage equality is the law of the land. His obstructionists tactics tarnish the reputation of the great state of Alabama, and we urge all of the state’s probate judges to issue licenses to same-sex couples, as is their duty under the law. Moore’s personal opinions are not at issue here. As a judge, he has an obligation to follow the law. If he refuses to do so, he should be removed from office.”