Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Alabama Same-Sex Marriage Developments: A Second Decision and Defiance

As previously reported, on Jan. 23 an Alabama federal district court invalidated Alabama statutory and constitutional provisions that bar recognition of same-sex marriages. The court however imposed a 14-day stay on its order to allow an appeal. (See prior posting),  Three days later, the same judge decided a second case, Strawser v. Strange, (SD AL, Jan. 26, 2015), reaching the same result, this time in a suit by plaintiffs seeking to marry in Alabama, rather than have their out-of-state marriage recognized in the state. The court again granted a 14-day stay to give an opportunity for an appeal.

Meanwhile, on Jan. 27 Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore sent a letter to the state's governor urging defiance of the federal court's decisions. In his letter (full text) to Gov. Robert Bentley, Moore said in part:
I am dismayed by those judges in our state who have stated they will recognize and unilaterally enforce a federal court decision which does not bind them.  I would advise them that the issuance of such licenses would be in defiance of the laws and Constitution of Alabama.  Moreover, I note that "United States district court decisions are not controlling authority in this Court."...  As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, I will continue to recognize the Alabama Constitution and the will of the people overwhelmingly expressed in the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.
... Be advised that I stand with you to stop judicial tyranny and any unlawful opinions issued without constitutional authority.
According to, the governor issued a statement after the release of Moore's letter, saying in part:
The people of Alabama voted in a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between man and woman. As governor, I must uphold the Constitution. I am disappointed in Friday's ruling, and I will continue to oppose this ruling. The Federal government must not infringe on the rights of states.
In 2003, Roy Moore ,in his first term as Alabama Chief Justice, gained national attention by his fight against removal of a large Ten Commandments monument that he had place in the Alabama Judicial Building.