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Alabama Chief Justice Defies Same-Sex-Marriage Ruling

  • Deborah Block

Alabama is the effectively the 37th U.S. state to recognize same-sex marriage, after the nation's Supreme Court denied a request that would have extended the state's ban.

Some same-sex couples, however, have been turned away from getting marriage licenses. They've been handed copies of an order from Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who says the federal judge's ruling declaring the same-sex-marriage ban to be unconstitutional isn't law.

Moore argues that the federal ruling doesn’t apply to state judges and that only he has the authority over judges who issue marriage licenses.

"Well, I think redefinition of the word 'marriage' is not found within the powers designated in the federal government," he said.

Moore said lifting the ban could have further repercussions. "Do they stop with one man and one man, or one woman and one woman?" he asked. "Or do they go to multiple marriages, or do they go to marriages between men and their daughters, or women and their sons?"

In 2002, Moore defied another federal ruling by installing a large monument engraved with the Bible's Ten Commandments in the building that houses the Alabama Supreme Court. A federal court ruled the monument had to be removed after there were complaints that the monument violated a clause in the U.S. Constitution forbidding the endorsement of religion.

But Moore refused, and he was subsequently removed from his elected office in 2003. However, he was re-elected chief justice and took office in 2013.

Moore’s action this week is being compared to action taken by former Alabama Governor George Wallace, who believed in racial segregation and also defied a federal law. After a federal law ordered the desegregation of Alabama’s schools, Wallace stood in front of a door at the University of Alabama in 1963 to try to stop the enrollment of two black students.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has said it will hear testimony this year on whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees all Americans the right to enter into same-sex marriages.

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