Monday, February 9, 2015

Alabama: The thirty-seventh same-sex marriage state (UPDATED) : SCOTUSblog

Alabama: The thirty-seventh same-sex marriage state (UPDATED) : SCOTUSblog:
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 "UPDATED 1:96 p.m.  Lawyers for one of the same-sex couples involved in the Alabama dispute promptly filed a motion for contempt against a probate judge in Mobile who refused to open the office for issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.


With the Supreme Court again refusing to delay lower courts’ rulings in favor of same-sex marriage, Alabama on Monday morning became the thirty-seventh state where such unions are legal, and at least four couples were promptly wed at a courthouse in Montgomery.  Alabama’s situation, though, is unique because of a looming legal battle over who will or will not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Two Justices who had dissented from earlier orders allowing same-sex marriage licensing to occur — Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia — protested anew on Monday.  They argued that the Court was showing disrespect for states, and was sending a premature hint that it has already made up its mind on a constitutional issue it will only be taking up in April.

 The Court’s denial of a plea by state officials for postponement came some nine hours after a federal trial judge’s temporary delay of same-sex marriages had expired at midnight.  U.S. District Judge Callie Granade of Mobile had struck down the state ban, but delayed the ruling for two weeks.  The majority of the Supreme Court — at least five Justices, but no votes were noted other than those of the two dissenters — gave no explanation for declining to provide a further postponement.

After similar denials by the Court for same-sex marriages in other states, same-sex couples in large numbers were free to marry, and tens of thousands of them promptly did so.

In Alabama, however, it may take some time to sort out the legal opportunity for same-sex couples to wed.

On Sunday, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy S. Moore, who also serves as the head of the state’s judiciary, sent out a legal memo to all sixty-eight county probate judges — the officials who issue marriage licenses in that state — telling them they had no authority to do so because the federal judge’s ruling striking down the state’s ban does not apply in state courts.

If any of the judges does issue a marriage license that does not obey the state’s ban, the chief justice warned, it would be up to the state’s governor to take action — although the memo did not specify what kind of action — to enforce state law. "

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