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With Stay Denied, Alabama Couples Could Marry Next Week

With Stay Denied, Alabama Couples Could Marry Next Week

With Stay Denied, Alabama Couples Could Marry Next Week

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court grants the state's request for a stay, same-sex couples in Alabama can start marrying February 9.


The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals this morning rejected a request from Alabama to extend a hold placed on a federal ruling that would establish marriage equality in the state, leaving Republican leadership with only one option to delay the arrival of the freedom to marry. 

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has already promised to take that step, and will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to extend a stay placed on a pair of pro-equality rulings from U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade. That stay, which Granade placed on her own rulings, is set to expire February 9, unless the Supreme Court grants the state's request to extend the stay. If the Supreme Court declines to do so, Alabama will become the 37th state in the U.S. (plus the District of Columbia) to allow same-sex couples to legally wed. 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who oversees petitions from the 11th Circuit, can either rule on Alabama's request independently, or refer the issue to the full court. Justice Thomas previously referred a similar question regarding the start-date of marriage equality in Florida (which is also in the 11th Circuit) to the full court, which ultimately denied the state's request and allowed marriage equality to take effect in Florida in late December. 

In briefs asking the 11th Circuit to extend the stay, lawyers representing Alabama officials argued that allowing marriage equality to begin before the issue is settled definitively by the Supreme Court later this year would throw the state into confusion. 

"Absent a stay, any same-sex marriages that are recognized by any official in Alabama will be subject to dispute and challenge," the state's brief claims, according to the Associated Press. "A stay ensures that people in Alabama, including the plaintiffs, do not have to worry about the undoing of same-sex marriages or adoptions after the U.S. Supreme Court rules this June." 

But the Supreme Court justices were unpersuaded by similar arguments when Florida officials advanced them — though that request notably came before the court prior to the court's announcement that it will hear marriage equality cases out of four states this spring. 

But even with the stay Judge Granade imposed on her own ruling, confusion about the state of equality is running rampant in Alabama. After initially stating that its members could not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the Alabama Probate Judge Association reversed course, agreeing that probate judges (who are responsible for issuing marriage licenses in the state) would in fact issue licenses to same-sex couples if the stay is lifted. 

Meanwhile, the chief justice of the Alabama supreme court has pledged to defy any federal ruling in favor of marriage equality, and simply refuse to allow same-sex couples to wed in his courthouse. Judge Roy Moore was actually removed from office in 2003, after he refused to abide by a federal order to remove a statue of the 10 Commandments from his courthouse. Voters reinstated Moore to the state's top judicial spot in 2012. 

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