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Alabama Chief Justice Defies Federal Court On Gay Marriage

Hours after a federal court ruled Alabama must recognize same-sex marriages, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore told state judges to disregard the ruling.

Alabama is not under the jurisdiction of any federal court, except the U.S. Supreme Court, Moore said in a memo Tuesday. So unless the state’s same-sex marriage ban is ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, Alabama officials are not required to issue same-sex marriage certificates.

In two separate January rulings, U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade struck down Alabama’s legal and constitutional same-sex marriage bans. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange appealed the rulings to the U.S. Supreme Court, and asked Granade to allow Alabama to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court ruling before it begins recognizing same-sex marriages.

Granade refused, and a federal appeals court upheld her decision in a ruling Tuesday.

Moore almost immediately sent a memo and a letter to Alabama judges explaining why they do not have to break state law and recognize same-sex marriage unless the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately rules it unconstitutional.

“While my disagreement with Judge Granade’s orders in the cases attacking Alabama marriage law has been criticized as ‘religious,’ ‘defiant,’ and ‘unethical,’ my actions are entirely consistent with my responsibility as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court,” he wrote in the letter, saying he has the authority to clarify rulings and give state judges guidance.

Federal and state courts are separate systems equally beholden to the Constitution, he said, so only the U.S. Supreme Court can arbitrate disputes between the two. Also, Granade’s order applies to the attorney general and anyone in the executive branch, but since Alabama’s government has strict separation of powers, the ruling cannot apply to the judicial branch.

When Moore wrote a similar letter in January, Granade fired back in a clarifying statement, saying Alabama must immediately recognize same-sex marriages when the temporary hold on her ruling is lifted.

He dismissed her warning. “Marriage has long been recognized as a divine institution ordained of God,” he wrote in the letter. “According to the United States Supreme Court, the basic foundation of marriage and family upon which our country rests is ‘the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony.”

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