Alabama's sorting through consternation today as a handful of antigay officials try to find a reason why the state shouldn't be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Much of the confusion stems from Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who muddied matters late Sunday night by ordering state probate judges, who are in charge of marriage licenses, to turn away gay and lesbian couples. That would be a violation of an explicit order from a federal judge, but Moore claims that the federal court has no jurisdiction. He was removed from the bench in 2003 for making a similar claim (it involved the placement of a Ten Commandments monument in the state judicial building), but voters restored him as chief justice in 2012.
Most judges have chosen to ignore Moore and issue licenses. As of Monday, only a handful of counties are disregarding the federal pro-equality ruling.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has monitors at state offices and has set up a hotline for couples to report difficulty obtaining a marriage license. Judges who refuse to comply with the federal order could be charged with contempt of court and be subject to a fine or jail time.
The situation harkens back to 1963, when Alabama Gov. George Wallace attempted to violate a federal order that the state integrate its schools. Federal marshals were called in to force the state to comply.
In addition to Moore, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and block the weddings. That request was denied, over the objections of Justice Clarence Thomas.
Alabama state Sen. Del Marsh also objected to the weddings, complaining that treating citizens equally would cost the state too much money.
Alabama already has the dubious distinction of have a chief justice who was forced from office in disgrace. With this latest posturing, Moore could become Alabama's twice-disgraced former chief justice.