The Alabama Supreme Court ordered the state's probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples yesterday, saying a previous federal ruling that gay-marriage bans violate the US Constitution does not preclude them from following state law, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The all-Republican court in Montgomery sided with the argument offered by a pair of conservative organizations when they appealed a decision by US District Judge Callie Granade, who ruled in January that both Alabama's constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. It was not immediately clear what impact the latest ruling would have or whether it would stand.
While a six-member majority of the nine-member court did not explicitly invalidate the marriages of hundreds of same-sex couples who obtained licenses in the state in recent weeks, the decision used the term "purported" to describe those licenses. A lawyer for the couple in the case that resulted in Granade's ruling overturning Alabama's gay-marriage ban says the US Supreme Court spoke on the Alabama case when it refused to block Granade's decision. "The Alabama Supreme Court has now demonstrated a willingness to defy and nullify a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the federal district court for the southern district of Alabama," he says. (Read more Alabama stories.)