HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- A North Alabama same-sex couple was turned away Wednesday from getting a marriage license from the Madison County Probate Judge’s office.
Madison County officials stopped issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples Wednesday afternoon after receiving an order from Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Moore ordered probate judges to stop the practice until the Alabama Supreme Court takes up the issue of same-sex marriage.
Madison County had been a popular marriage destination for same-sex couples last year after a federal judge struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban. But Wednesday it was a different story, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year that same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional.
The Shoals-area couple went to the Madison County Courthouse around 1 p.m., Wednesday, one of the women told WHNT News 19.
The clerk was very nice, she said, but informed her they had just received a letter from Chief Justice Moore ordering them to stop issuing marriage licenses. The clerk said they could apply for a license, but the order was under review and the county wasn’t currently issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
The woman said they were surprised, thinking the Supreme Court ruling had settled the matter.
“It was supposed to be a happy day,” said the woman, who asked not to be identified. “But it was ridiculous and insulting.”
Madison County resumed issuing same-sex marriage licenses – several North Alabama counties never stopped – Thursday morning.
The decision came after a review of Moore’s order and also the order from a federal judge in Mobile from May. That order by U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. “Ginny” Granade certified all of the state’s probate judge as a class, and blocked them from enforcing Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban.
Granade’s order was timed to go into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June.
County officials said they wanted to make sure there was nothing in Moore’s order that would be a problem for the probate court and they said they tried to reduce the inconvenience for any couples seeking a license.
The Madison County review found no problem with issuing licenses and they resumed the practice.
U.S. Attorneys in North and South Alabama issued a statement Wednesday night saying Moore’s order was a “grave concern” and that Alabama needed to follow the law.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange’s office was asked about his position on the matter Thursday. The office reissued the statement he made following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision June 26. Strange said he disagreed with the ruling, but that it was now the law of the land.
Moore’s order said it was aimed at reducing confusion for the state’s probate judges, but in Madison County it seemed to create confusion within a system that had been issuing marriage licenses without incident for several months, officials said.
Moore has argued the Supreme Court ruling didn’t specifically strike down Alabama’s sanctity of marriage laws, but legal scholars in Alabama pointed to the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause which establishes that federal law trumps state law.
Article VI, paragraph 2 of the U.S. Constitution says, “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”