Local Courts Cannot Block Same-Sex Marriages In Alabama, Americans United Says

Judges Or Clerks Who Fail To Uphold Federal Court Rulings May Face Lawsuits, Says Church-State Watchdog Group

Judges or clerks who refuse to recognize same-sex marriages in Alabama will face a host of legal troubles, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay a lower court’s decision that struck down Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban. As a result, same-sex marriage is now legal in the state pending further action by the high court, which is set to consider a marriage equality case this spring.

But Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has vowed to defy federal court orders and has asked Gov. Robert Bentley as well as county probate judges to follow his lead. In response, Americans United is offering to represent same-sex couples who are denied the right to marry.

“No official in Alabama has the right to ignore a federal court decision legalizing same-sex marriage,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Some zealots apparently believe they have the right to ignore laws they don’t like. They may soon find that they are very much mistaken.”

When Moore vowed in January to resist same-sex marriage, Americans United issued him a stern warning.

“Justice Moore’s Tenth-Amendment-nullification arguments are relics straight from the Civil War, embraced only by inhabitants of the deranged right-wing fever-swamps in which the Justice has mired himself,” AU’s letter stated. “Even a first-year law student knows that the requirements of the U.S. Constitution trump state law, and you would do well to disregard the Chief Justice’s ramblings.”

Although same-sex marriage has only been legal in Alabama for a few hours, news media reports already say judges in several counties are refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That’s why Americans United feels it is critical to act now and has placed an advertisement in the Montgomery Advertiser, which will run tomorrow, that advises state officials not to defy the law.

This is not the first time Americans United has tangled with Moore. In 2001, AU, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and the Southern Poverty Law Center sued Moore after he erected a Ten Commandments monument at the state Judicial Building in Montgomery. A federal court struck down the display in 2002, a ruling that was later upheld by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Moore attempted to defy the ruling and lost his seat for it. (He was reelected as chief justice of the state high court in 2012.)

“What we are seeing in Alabama is a flashback to 1963, when some state officials tried to physically bar black students from integrating public universities,” said Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan. “What Moore and his allies are trying to do now is every bit as wrong and every bit as foolish. It will not end well for them.”

If you attempted to obtain a marriage license in Alabama and you believe your legal right to marry has been denied, please contact Americans United at 202-466-3234 or legaldept@au.org

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.