WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for gay marriages to commence in Alabama.
Luther Strange, Alabama’s attorney general, had asked the justices to block gay marriages — set to commence Monday morning — from going forward while the justices consider a challenge to state gay marriage bans in four states. But the Supreme Court issued an order holding the “application for stay presented to Justice Thomas and by him referred to the Court is denied.”
Late last month, a federal district judge struck down Alabama’s laws prohibiting same-sex marriage but stayed the order until today. Gay rights advocates began to marry just after 8 a.m. CST.
Justice Clarence Thomas joined by Justice Antonin Scalia would have granted the stay. Thomas wrote, “In this case, the Court refuses even to grant a temporary stay when it will resolve the issue at hand in several months.” Thomas said he “I would have shown the people of Alabama the respect they deserve and preserved the status quo while the Court resolves this important Constitutional question.”
Thomas said the court’s acquiescence “may well be seen as a signal of the Court’s intended resolution” of the pending question.
Meanwhile, Sunday night Roy Moore, the controversial Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, sent out an order holding that “effective immediately no Probate Judge of the State of Alabama” should issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent with a the State constitution.
In the order, Moore says that the opinions of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama do “not bind the state courts of Alabama only only serve as persuasive authority.”
In 2003, Moore was removed from the court by a state ethics panel after he refused to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments in the court building. Moore was re-elected in 2012.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has launched another complaint against Moore and said in a statement last night that Moore has not authority to tell the probate judges to disregard the ruling of a federal district Court Judge.
“It’s outrageous,” SPLC President Richard Cohen said in a statement. “We urge the probate judges to follow the Constitution of the United States and issue marriage licenses when their offices open in the morning. Chief Justice Moore has no authority to tell them otherwise.”
Stephen I. Vladeck , a professor of Law at the American University Washington College of Law, says that while Chief Justice Moore is correct that the state probate judges aren’t bound by the district court’s ruling, “he’s wrong, — incomprehensibly so — to suggest that those same judges can follow the Alabama Constitution over and above what those judges believe federal law mandates.”