Alabama Judges Still Battling Feds Over Same-Sex Marriage

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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A federal judge again ordered Alabama judges to start issuing same-sex marriage certificates Thursday, because some judges continue to refuse same-sex couples.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade ruled the state’s constitutional and legal bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in January. But Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has repeatedly declared that the state only answers to the Supreme Court, and ordered state judges not to recognize Granade’s ruling.

She gave Alabama until this week to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, and many judges began issuing same-sex marriage certificates since Monday. But, citing confusion about the conflicting orders from the federal judge and Alabama Supreme Court, other judges have refused.

“While my disagreement with Judge Granade’s orders in the cases attacking Alabama marriage law has been criticized as ‘religious,’ ‘defiant,’ and ‘unethical,’ my actions are entirely consistent with my responsibility as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court,” Moore wrote in a letter to state judges.

“Under the principle of ‘dual sovereignty,’ the authority of state courts to interpret the federal Constitution is equal to that of the lower federal courts for the simple reason that both state and federal courts are equally sworn to uphold the United States Constitution,” he added.

“Only the United States Supreme Court can be the final arbiter of constitutional disputes between states and federal courts.”

Granade issued a clarifying order Thursday to a Mobile, Alabama, judge as a signal to the rest of the state, The New York Times reported. “Judge Davis may not deny them a license on the ground that Plaintiffs constitute same-sex couples or because it is prohibited by the sanctity of marriage,” the decision said.

She gave the order after she heard arguments from lawyers for four same-sex couples who were refused a marriage certificate by the state.

According to gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, up to 52 of Alabama’s 67 counties are not processing same-sex couple’s paperwork, either out of defiance or confusion.

“We’ve got Alabama’s chief justice issuing an order, and we’ve got an order out from a federal judge,” Judge Greg Norris of Monroe County, who is also president of the Alabama Probate Judges Association, told The New York Times earlier this week. “It’s just a very difficult situation.”

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