The Alabama Supreme Court refused Friday to defy the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, cutting off a conservative bid to prevent gay weddings in the state.
The court issued a one-sentence order dismissing a challenge by a probate judge and a conservative policy group that wanted the state to bar same-sex marriage despite the landmark federal decision.
Several state justices railed against the federal high court's ruling while noting they can't overturn it.
Chief Justice Roy Moore, a Christian conservative who has repeatedly spoken out against same-sex unions, wrote that previous state orders barring gay marriage in Alabama remain. Most probate judges already are ignoring that directive, however, and hundreds of same-sex couples have wed in Alabama.
Eric Johnston, an attorney for the Alabama Policy Institute, which went to court seeking to prevent more gay marriages in the state, said the decision left opponents nowhere to turn in the court system.
“The order effectively ends the case,” he said in an email interview. “It appears to give us no option.”
Most Alabama counties have been issuing same-sex licenses for months. Randall Marshall, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said that while some of the state's 67 counties quit issuing marriage licenses completely, none was issuing licenses to straight couples while denying licenses to gay couples.
“I don't think that we will see any change going forward,” he said by email.
While the court used only 11 words in its order, members of the all-Republican bench railed against the U.S. Supreme Court decision in multiple written opinions totaling 169 pages.
Quoting passages from past court rulings, the Bible and the 1974 song “Feelings,” the chief justice called the federal court's ruling “immoral, unconstitutional and tyrannical.” He referred to homosexuality as a “disgrace to human nature” that can't be compared to opposite-sex intimacy.
“Sodomy has never been and never will be an act by which a marriage can be consummated,” Moore wrote.
Justice Tom Parker said the high court's decision to allow same-sex marriage nationwide meant “the rule of law is dead.” Similarly, Justice Michael Bolin said the U.S. Supreme Court sided with advocates of same-sex marriage “without any constitutional basis,” yet added: “I do concede that its holding is binding authority on this court.”
Marshall, the ACLU attorney, said state probate judges could face federal court sanctions if they attempt to discriminate against same-sex couples now that the state Supreme Court has acted.
The justices' writings revealed what seemed to be deep splits within the court.
Justices Bolin and James Main said it would be “erroneous and unjust” to attribute other judges' opinions to them, and Justice Greg Shaw distanced himself from Moore's arguments that he had a right to consider the case despite his past positions against same-sex unions.
“Whether any participation or vote by [Moore] violates the Canons of Judicial Ethics is an issue I do not address,” wrote Shaw.