Mobile, Ala., Mar 4, 2015 / 10:58 am
The Alabama Supreme Court on Tuesday night halted the illegal distribution of marriage licenses to people of the same sex, setting up a potential constitutional conflict with a federal judge who imposed "gay marriage" on the state.
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, praised the ruling that state officials must follow Alabama laws defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman.
"A single federal judge does not have the authority to force a state to redefine marriage and it's high time that out of control judges were put in their place," Brown said March 4. "We call on other states to similarly order their state's officials to enforce state marriage laws."
The state Supreme Court's 7-1 March 3 ruling said: "As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for 'marriage' between only one man and one woman."
"Government has an obvious interest in offspring and the consequences that flow from the creation of each new generation, which is only naturally possible in the opposite-sex relationship, which is the primary reason marriage between men and women is sanctioned by state law," the ruling said.
It charged that a federal district court had ignored U.S. Supreme Court precedent that "plainly was referring to traditional marriage when it proclaimed that marriage is a fundamental right."
Brown noted that the U.S. Supreme Court specifically affirmed state laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman in the 1972 case Baker v. Nelson.
On Feb. 9, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to put on hold U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade's order that Alabama probate judges distribute marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Alabama.
The Alabama Supreme Court's chief justice Roy Moore told the state's 67 counties to ignore the federal court ruling. Most judges initially followed the state Supreme Court until Granade ordered a probate judge in Mobile County to start issuing licenses, Reuters reports.
The one dissent from Wednesday's state Supreme Court ruling argued that the court did not have jurisdiction in the case, the Washington Post says.
Alabama's debate is part of a larger national discussion about where the authority to define marriage lies.
Thirty-six states currently recognize same-sex "marriage," while two others offer partial recognition. Of these, the majority – 25 states – had their definition of marriage changed by the courts. Only three states legalized "gay marriage" through a vote of the people. Critics have argued that the trend unfairly responds to a push from wealthy activists rather than allowing the people to have a say.