The tug-of-war over who's in charge of marriage in Alabama isn't over yet: last week, the state Supreme Court ordered judges to stop issuing marriage licenses.
Can they do that? Well, no, not really. But they did.
Under normal circumstances, the state Supreme Court isn't supposed to be the point of origin for rulings like this. Instead, cases should percolate up through lower courts.
In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that it can issue a decision halting marriages because it oversees the probate judges who issue the licenses. This is not a completely perusasive argument: When they issue the licenses, the elected judges are really just processing paperwork, not issuing a judgment.
Nevertheless, the order was issued, and the weddings have stopped. That's bad news for same-sex couples, but fantastic news for lawyers: The next few weeks will see a flurry of filings and briefs and arguments.
It's possible that marriage could resume in Alabama before long, given that a coalition of civil rights groups has filed a new class action case in federal court. Or the state's stalling tactics might just prolong the marriage hiatus until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the issue in June.