US & World

Federal judge orders Ala. official to issue marriage licenses to gay couples

Tori Sisson, left, and Shante Wolfe, right, exchange wedding rings during their wedding ceremony, Monday, Feb. 9, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. Sisson and Wolfe were the first couple to file their marriage license in Montgomery County.
Tori Sisson, left, and Shante Wolfe, right, exchange wedding rings during their wedding ceremony, Monday, Feb. 9, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. Sisson and Wolfe were the first couple to file their marriage license in Montgomery County.
Brynn Anderson/AP

A battle between Alabama and the federal judiciary just turned another page, when a federal judge on Thursday ordered a state official to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Reuters reports:

"U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade's order sought to clarify that Mobile County Probate Court Judge Don Davis should follow her directive, and not a contravening order from Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore that has led many state judges to refrain from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. "

As NPR's Debbie Elliott reported this morning, Moore's order threw Alabama into a state of confusion. Some counties heeded a federal court decision that found the state's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, while orders have listened to Moore's order, which told them they didn't have to abide by the federal court's decision.

"This power to define marriage is not given to the federal government," Moore explained in an interview with NPR. "It is reserved to the states and to the people, and it is simply an abuse of power to go into the Constitution and redefine a word which is not even in there."

In an eight-page order, Granade, the federal judge, states that a federal court has found that Alabama's ban on gay marriage violates the Due Process and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and state officials — in this specific case, Probate Judge Don Davis — are tied to that decision and have to issue marriage licenses.

Ultimately, all of this will be decided by the Supreme Court, which has decided to weigh in on the constitutionality of gay marriage bans this term.

In his interview with NPR, Moore conceded that point.

"[The Supreme Court] can mandate same-sex marriage, but they can't force a constitutional officer to disobey his oath by performing one," Moore said.

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