Montgomery, AL – In a historic ruling, the Supreme Court of Alabama in a 7-1 decision has affirmed natural marriage and ordered Alabama’s probate judges to immediately stop issuing illegal marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The ruling represents a significant shift of momentum in the same-sex marriage agenda, and is a direct challenge to the orders of U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade, who in January purported to overturn Alabama’s marriage laws. The ruling of the Alabama Supreme Court offers the most forceful and clearly articulated rebuttal to date of the imaginative arguments for same-sex “marriage” employed by federal courts.
“The ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court is historic, and is one of the most researched and well reasoned opinions on marriage to be issued by any court in the country,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.
The ruling grants in full Liberty Counsel’s emergency mandamus petition. In the petition and in a subsequent brief, Liberty Counsel demanded on behalf of its Alabama clients – Alabama Policy Institute (“API”) and Alabama Citizens Action Program (“ALCAP”) – that Alabama’s probate judges obey Alabama’s Constitution and laws. As a result of this ruling, Alabama’s probate judges must immediately cease issuing illegal same-sex marriage licenses.
Four probate judges answered Liberty Counsel’s petition, arguing that Alabama citizens have no right or interest in preserving natural marriage. The respondents also claimed that API and ALCAP have no standing, and that the Court has no jurisdiction over this case. But the Supreme Court soundly rejected those arguments, concluding that standing and jurisdiction were proper and citing a truckload of precedent. The Court said: “It could not be clearer that the public — the people of Alabama — have an interest in the respondents’ faithful compliance with Alabama’s marriage laws.” Reinforcing the point, the Court added, “It is beyond question that the duty to issue marriage licenses only in accordance with Alabama law is a duty owed to the public for its benefit. The failure to perform that duty damages the framework of law and institutions the people have chosen for themselves.”
The unlawful issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples by Alabama probate judges was the result of federal Judge Callie Granade’s January rulings, when she purported to determine that Alabama’s marriage laws violate the U.S. Constitution. Though she had no power to extend her ruling to the entire state, some activist probate judges across Alabama who were not subject to her ruling took it upon themselves to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in clear violation of Alabama law.
Today’s Supreme Court ruling, however, not only restores the rule of law in Alabama, but also forcefully challenges and methodically dismantles the opinion of Judge Granade and other judges who have erroneously held that the U.S. Constitution requires states to redefine marriage:
[W]e find that the provisions of Alabama law contemplating the issuance of marriage licenses only to opposite-sex couples do not violate the United States Constitution . . . .
[W]hat [Judge Granade] has done is to declare an entirely new concept of “marriage” a fundamental right under the guise of the previously understood meaning of that institution. It is, plainly and simply, circular reasoning—it assumes the conclusion of the matter, i.e., that marriage as newly defined is a fundamental right, in the premise of the question without acknowledging that a change of terms has occurred.
On its way to affirming natural marriage, the Alabama Supreme Court made several key observations about the historical and societal underpinnings of the marriage institution:
- “[M]arriage, as a union between one man and one woman, is the fundamental unit of society.”
- “[M]arriage has always been between members of the opposite sex. The obvious reason for this immutable characteristic is nature. Men and women complement each other biologically and socially.”
- “[O]ne legitimate interest behind the laws (among others) is recognizing and encouraging the ties between children and their biological parents.”
- “Government is concerned with public effects, not private wishes. The new definition of marriage centers on the private concerns of adults, while the traditional definition focuses on the benefits to society from the special relationship that exists between a man and a woman, i.e., the effects for care of children, the control of passions, the division of wealth in society, and so on.”
- “[I]f love was the sine qua non of marriage, then polygamy also would be constitutionally protected . . . .”
- “[W]hat ultimately is at issue is the entire edifice of family law . . . an edifice that has existed in some form since before the United States was even a country. . . . It is no small thing to wipe away this edifice with a wave of the judicial wand.”
“The legitimacy of the judiciary is undermined when a judge legislates from the bench or usurps the power reserved to the states regarding natural marriage,” said Staver. “This decision of the Alabama Supreme Court is very well reasoned, which is quite rare from today’s courts,” he added. “The decision not only affirms natural marriage but also restores the rule of law,” Staver concluded.
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore took no part in the Court’s decision.
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.
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