Late in the evening of March 3, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling in an “emergency petition for writ of mandamus,” brought by two private groups who oppose the freedom to marry in Alabama. In the ruling, the Court ordered a temporary halt to probate judges in Alabama from issuing marriage licenses, aside from probate judge Davis in Mobile, who was specifically ordered to stop enforcing Alabama’s harmful ban on marriage between same-sex couples.
The decision is stunningly out-of-step, a desperate attempt by the Alabama Supreme Court to keep the state on the wrong side of history. Read the decision here.
Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson said:
The Alabama probate judges who are caught in the middle will be looking for guidance, and I am confident that the federal courts – and soon the U.S. Supreme Court – will provide it. The saddest thing is that this manipulated lawsuit – the Alabama Supreme Court led by Roy Moore did not even ask for briefing on the constitutional questions it rushed to get wrong – will be one more delay for, and insult, to the loving couples seeking to marry, albeit a temporary one.
The Alabama Supreme Court has done a disservice to itself, not to mention a massive injustice to the people of Alabama, in allowing itself to be used to temporarily obstruct the freedom to marry and the enforcement of the constitutions guarantees. This flouting of the Constitution and travesty of justice will not stand.
Equality Alabama Board Chair Ben Cooper said today:
This move by the Alabama Supreme Court is nothing but an attempt at delaying the happiness that all families deserve – a last-ditch effort to stand in the way of the love we’ve seen in these historic weeks. As we get closer to the day the freedom to marry comes to all 50 states – the Alabama Supreme Court is on the wrong side of history. Every day of denial is a day of harm for Alabama families
What does the Alabama Supreme Court ruling do?
- The Alabama Supreme Court has ordered four probate judges – Jefferson County’s Alan L. King (Jefferson County), Chilton County’s Robert M. Martin, Madison County’s Tommy Ragland, and Montgomery County’s Steven L. Reed to immediately stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples
- 62 other probate judges in Alabama – all except for Mobile probate judge Don Davis, who was specifically enjoined from enforcing Alabama’s marriage ban by federal court order – are temporarily orderd to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Each judge has five days to respond explaining why they should be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
- Judge Davis of Mobile is ordered to file a response by Thursday explaining whether he believes the federal court order requires him to issue marriage licenses to any same-sex couples besides the four couples involved in the Strawser case, brought by same-sex couples and the National Center for Lesbian Rights
What DOESN’T the Alabama Supreme Court ruling do?
- The Alabama Supreme Court ruling does NOT call into question the hundreds of marriage licenses that have been issued in Alabama since February 9, 2015. These couples are married – and their marriage licenses are valid. The state must respect these licenses issued under guidance from a federal judge, from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and from the United States Supreme Court.
- The ruling is NOT a permanent decision, but rather a last-ditch attempt to delay the freedom to marry. It is a temporary, unnecessary pause that does nothing but damage the thousands of same-sex couples and their families in the state of Alabama.
- Above all, the ruling does NOT mean that the fight for the freedom to marry in Alabama is over. We will continue fighting – we must continue fighting – to show not only other federal judges that the Alabama Supreme Court is on the wrong side of history, but also the United States Supreme Court that Alabama is READY for the freedom to marry once and for all.
Equality Alabama and Freedom to Marry are continuing to work with our partner legal organizations – including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU of Alabama – and we are committed to fighting until NO couple is denied a marriage license in Alabama.
This article was first published on FreedomtoMarry.org and is republished with written permission.