MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Supreme Court of Alabama has ordered a judge who was at the center of a same-sex “marriage” lawsuit not to issue any such licenses, advising that a recent federal court ruling surrounding the matter does not apply to anyone outside of the two women involved in the legal challenge.
“To the extent he exercises this authority, he must issue those licenses in accordance with the meaning of the term ‘marriage’ in that Code section and in accordance with other provisions of Alabama law, as discussed in our March 3 opinion,” the court wrote, meaning that the judge may only issue licenses that comport with current law, which enshrines marriage as being between one man and one woman.
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 Alabama’s marriage amendment 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.
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. Last Tuesday, six of the nine judges released a historic order halting the issuance of same-sex “marriage” licenses in the state. Judge Moore recused himself from the matter and was not included in the order.
“As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman,” the 148-page order read. “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.”
In addition to issuing the order, the panel gave Judge Davis time to show why the ruling should not apply to him. He replied that he did not think that he could disobey the federal court.
But the Supreme Court said that Davis’ concerns held no merit. It contended that Grenade’s ruling only applied to the two women who sought to adopt and not to any other entities in the state. The court noted that the women had already “wed” out of state and were only challenging the state constitution as it pertained to allowing one of the women to adopt the other’s child.
“In the absence of a showing otherwise, we are left to read this language in accordance with its plain meaning: It grants injunctive relief against Judge Davis only as ‘to [the] plaintiffs,'” the court wrote on Wednesday. “Further, Judge Davis has made no showing that the federal court order for which he seeks a stay is one that has not already been executed, i.e. , one that concerns any license other than those already issued to the plaintiffs in that case.”
Following the state Supreme Court order, Davis said that his office would stop issuing marriage licenses altogether in order to avoid any trouble.
“These matters are very complicated. … This court will not discriminate in any matter against any person,” a statement on the county court website reads. “We regret any inconvenience this action may cause Mobile County citizens.”
Out of the over 30 states that have faced federal lawsuits surrounding same-sex nuptials, the Alabama Supreme Court is the first in the nation to direct its judges not to issue any marriage licenses outside of the parameters of its state marriage amendment.