Same-sex couples in Madison County, Ala., can once again obtain marriage licenses, after a Wednesday order from the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court briefly halted the issuance of such licenses, reports AL.com, a website for several Alabama newspapers.
Marriage equality advocates rallied outside Huntsville's Madison County courthouse Wednesday after a probate judge announced that he would adhere to the administrative order from the state's top justice, and only issue marriage licenses to opposite-sex couples.
Roy Moore, the stridently antigay chief justice of the state's highest court, on Wednesday issued an order telling county clerks not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, claiming the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark marriage equality ruling from June did not apply to Alabama.
But by Thursday morning, AL.com reports, Madison County Probate Judge Tommy Ragland had resumed issuing marriage licenses "to everyone." Huntsville TV station WAFF reports that one same-sex couple received a marriage license Thursday morning.
Moore's Wednesday directive was roundly rejected as not only unenforceable but outright unconstitutional. That's how Moore's order was described Thursday by Democratic presidential front-runner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who used the opportunity to remind pro-equality Americans that the fight is not yet over.
"There are still judges who are determined to stand in the way of people's rights," Clinton said in a statement, according to AL.com. "There are still politicians who argue the court got it wrong and states should ignore its ruling."
But Moore's defiant position isn't shared by everyone within the state judiciary. Judge Stephen L. Reed, a probate judge in Montgomery county elected in 2012, called Moore's order "sad and pathetic" in a tweet that also promised his office would continue to issue marriage licenses to all eligible couples.
— Steven L Reed (@stevenlouisreed) January 6, 2016
This week's legal confusion is far from the first time Moore has thrown his state into a pitched battle over the legality of marriage equality. His tendency to use his elected position to further his homophobic ideology landed him on The Advocate's list of the biggest Phobies of 2015.
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, Moore was challenged in 2015 on ethics charges.
Moore, who claimed last summer that marriage equality would lead to the literal 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. Alabama voters returned him to the top jurist's seat in 2012.
That pattern of extrajudicial orders with a marked antigay agenda prompted the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center to call for Moore's removal from the bench.
"The chief justice's actions are unethical, contrary to law, and he should be removed from office. The state of Alabama deserves much better,” SPLC head Richard Cohen told the Alabama News Network of TV stations Thursday. “I was a little surprised, a little taken aback by what Justice Moore did, but then of course I realized it’s Justice Moore. He’s a religious zealot, he’s an egomaniac, he, I think, will not stop."