Legal chaos in Alabama as state court defies feds

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Washington Blade
By Chris Johnson
March 4, 2015

Legal chaos has resulted in Alabama after a ruling from the state Supreme Court contradicting federal court rulings against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The most recent order given to probate judges is from the state high court, which late Tuesday ordered them temporarily to discontinue distributing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. But that order defies the earlier rulings of U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade, who trumps state law and determined that refusing marriage licenses to same-sex couples is unconstitutional.

Adam Romero, senior counsel and Arnold D. Kassoy Scholar of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles, said probate judges “are between a rock and hard place” in terms of conflicting federal and state court rulings.

“If an Alabama probate judge follows the state Supreme Court’s ruling and refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, that judge is at risk of being hauled into Judge Granade’s court and held responsible for the costs of doing so,” Romero said.

But Romero noted Granade “has undeniable authority to remedy constitutional violations suffered by the plaintiffs in the cases before her.” Even though she has only explicitly enjoined the actions of Mobile Probate Judge Don Davis and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, Romero said “anyone who is subject to an injunction by Judge Granade is well advised to not disobey.”

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