The chief justice of Alabama’s supreme court ordered state officials Wednesday to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
But legal experts say the effect of his order is likely to be minimal and short-lived.
Roy Moore, acting in his capacity as the administrative head of the state court system, said he was acting because “confusion and uncertainty” exists among the Alabama officials, known as probate judges, who issue marriage licenses in the state.
Moore said they don’t know whether to abide by a ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court last March, which upheld the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, or the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June declaring such bans unconstitutional.
Only the Alabama Supreme Court can resolve that issue, Moore said.
The confusion persists, he said, because the June ruling applied immediately only to the four states whose bans were directly challenged — Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
But Moore’s order ignores what’s been happening in the federal courts. A federal judge in Alabama issued a ruling in May, declaring the state’s ban on same-sex marriage invalid and forbidding probate judges to deny marriage licenses to gay couples.
And in October, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals said that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage nullified the earlier decision of Alabama’s Supreme Court. Full Report