Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is taking another step in his efforts to stop marriage equality in his state, with a letter telling Alabama probate judges, who are responsible for issuing marriage licenses, not to do so for same-sex couples.
The exceedingly antigay jurist sent a letter Tuesday to probate judges, saying they do not have to obey a federal court’s ruling striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, the Associated Press reports. His argument is that they were not named in the lawsuit challenging the ban and have not received a direct order to issue licenses to same-sex couples.
Last week Moore sent a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley, similarly urging him to ignore the ruling. In that letter he claimed that federal courts do not have the authority under the U.S. Constitution to interpret state law, and he called the pro-marriage equality ruling “judicial tyranny.”
He made similar statements in his four-page letter to the probate judges, which was accompanied by a 27-page memorandum, notes AL.com, a website for several Alabama newspapers. “Interference with the right of state courts to make independent judgments based on their own view of the U.S. Constitution is a violation of state sovereignty,” he wrote.
The Alabama Probate Judges Association initially took a stand against issuing the licenses, but reversed its position when U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade, who struck down the marriage ban last month, clarified her ruling by saying the judges had a duty under the U.S. Constitution to do so.
Some observers say Moore is on shaky legal ground. Richard Cohen, president of the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center, told the AP that Moore is putting judges in “very, very hot water” by advising them to ignore the marriage equality ruling. Couples who are refused licenses may well sue the judges, he said. The SPLC last week filed an ethics complaint against Moore with Alabama’s Judicial Inquiry Commission for making improper public comments on a pending case and added a supplemental complaint this week, citing his comments on a radio talk show.
Meanwhile, Grande’s ruling is scheduled to go into effect Monday, when same-sex couples in the state will be able to apply for marriage licenses unless the U.S. Supreme Court grants Alabama officials’ request to extend the stay on it.