A judge in Madison County, Alabama, has decided to ignore the state’s Chief Justice Roy Moore, who said Wednesday that probate judges should not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As of Thursday morning, Madison County, a northern Alabama county that includes the relatively liberal college town of Huntsville, had resumed issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, WAFF -TV reported.
This comes as the latest development in Alabama’s monthslong dispute over the implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that established same-sex marriages nationwide. Moore, a Republican and prominent religious conservative, issued an administrative order Wednesday morning stating that judges could not issue licenses to same-sex couples because of an Alabama Supreme Court decision that upheld the state’s previous marriage restrictions.
“Until further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court, the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court that Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or the Alabama Marriage Protection Act remain in full force and effect,” Moore wrote.
He contended that the conflicting nature of the state and national Supreme Court decisions would lead to “confusion and uncertainty,” the New York Times reported.
Moore issued a similar order last February, hours before same-sex marriages were scheduled to begin in the state. At the time, most probate judges in the state defied his order. This time, WAFF reported Wednesday that several counties were continuing to issue licenses in defiance of the order, but several had stopped issuing licenses altogether.
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Despite Mobile saying it would stop issuing marriage licenses, United States attorneys in Mobile and Birmingham said Wednesday they had “grave concerns” about Moore’s order, the Times reported.
“Government officials are free to disagree with the law, but not to disobey it,” Joyce White Vance and Kenyen R. Brown said, according to the Times. “This issue has been decided by the highest court in the land, and Alabama must follow that law.”
After the chief justice’s order, same-sex marriage supporters rallied at the Madison County Courthouse in Huntsville Wednesday night, waving rainbow flags and calling for a reversal of Moore's decision. In the hours after Moore’s order, at least one same-sex couple attempted to obtain a license Wednesday afternoon, WAFF-TV reported. The probate office took their information but did not give them a license, pending a review of the justice’s order. By Thursday, that couple would have been able to get their license.