Alabama Judge Blocks Gay Marriage Before Marriage Licenses Could Be Issued

On Sunday night, the Alabama Supreme Court blocked same-sex marriage from taking effect in the state, defying a previous ruling from a federal district court that struck down Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage. The order was issued by Alabama judge Chief Justice Roy S. Moore, who declared that his ruling would be "effective immediately." Marriage licenses were supposed to be issued to same-sex couples in Alabama starting Monday morning.

"Effective immediately, no probate judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama probate judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent [with the state's constitution]," Moore wrote in his order.

Alabama became the 37th state to legalize gay marriage in January after U.S. District Judge Callie Granade overturned both the Alabama Marriage Protection Act and a state constitutional amendment. In her 10-page decision, Granade wrote that the state could not provide any "rational" or compelling evidence linking gay marriage to the preservation of the "biological family structure" and ensuring the safety of children.

"The Attorney General does not explain how allowing or recognizing same-sex marriage between two consenting adults will prevent heterosexual parents or other biological kin from caring for their biological children," Granade wrote last month.

Granade had stayed her ruling until Monday, Feb. 9, which prepared probate judges throughout the state. However, Moore wrote in his order that the ruling has created "confusion and disarray in the administration of the law."

Moore also blamed the Alabama Department of Health for redrafting marriage license forms "in contradiction to the public statements of Governor Bentley to uphold the Alabama Constitution."

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Prior to Granade's ruling, Alabama defined marriage as an "inherently unique relationship between a man and a woman." The state claims it has a "special interest" in encouraging and preserving this relationship.

But now, both same-sex couples and probate judges in Alabama are finding more confusion at the courthouses. Jefferson County Probate Judge Alan King told Al.com:

I only found out Justice Moore had issued his order a little before 10 p.m. [on Sunday]. At first glance, my legal analysis is do we in Jefferson County follow a valid federal court order or do we follow an order by one member, albeit the chief justice, of the Alabama Supreme Court?

An attorney for plaintiffs Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand, a same-sex Alabama couple who challenged the gay marriage ban in court, added to the news source: "I think it's absolutely stunning that our state's highest jurists would just advocate for ignoring a federal court order."Images: Getty Images