MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Supreme Court has issued a historic order halting the issuance of same-sex “marriage” licenses in the state.
“As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman,” the 148-page order reads. “Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.”
The order comes after a county probate judge asked the court for guidance on how to respond to a recent ruling striking down the state’s Sanctity of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
As previously reported, in 2013, two lesbians in the state sued Gov. Robert Bentley, Attorney General Luther Strange and Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis—among others—in an attempt to overturn the law after one of the women was denied from adopting the other woman’s child. In January, U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade declared the voter-approved state amendment unconstitutional.
“If anything, Alabama’s prohibition of same-sex marriage detracts from its goal of promoting optimal environments for children,” she wrote. “Those children currently being raised by same-sex parents in Alabama are just as worthy of protection and recognition by the state as are the children being raised by opposite-sex parents. Yet Alabama’s Sanctity laws harms the children of same-sex couples for the same reasons that the Supreme Court found that the Defense of Marriage Act harmed the children of same-sex couples.”
As an appeal was denied in the matter, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, also known as the Ten Commandments Judge, sent a letter and memorandum to probate judges throughout the state, advising them that they are not required to issue “marriage” licenses to same-sex couples despite Grenade’s ruling. But while over 50 judges decided to obey Moore, others opted to obey Grenade.
As confusion ensued, one probate judge, John Enslen of Elmore County, asked the court for further guidance. On Tuesday evening, six of the nine judges released an order concurring that probate judges must not issue the licenses. Moore was not included in the order.
“Traditional-marriage laws do not discriminate based on gender: All men and all women are equally entitled to enter the institution of marriage,” the justices wrote. “Only by redefining the term ‘marriage’ to mean something it is not (and in the process assuming an answer as part of the question), can this statement be challenged. Put in the negative, traditional-marriage laws do not discriminate on the basis of gender because all men and all women are equally restricted to marriage between the opposite sexes.”
The court also chastised the state attorney general for not doing more to speak out and provide clarity on the matter.
“In the wake of the federal district court’s orders, Attorney General Strange has refrained from fulfilling what would otherwise have been his customary role of providing advice and guidance to public officials, including probate judges, as to whether or how their duties under the law may have been altered by the federal district court’s decision,” the justices stated.
Probate judges have five days to submit explanations as to why they should be exempt from the order.