The stakes just got raised in the legal tussle between state probate judges in Alabama who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and a federal district judge Callie Granade who had ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. Granade has now directly ordered the probate judge Don Davis in the town of Mobile to issue licenses to same-sex couples. (You can read her ruling here.)
The situation in Alabama is a confused mess. As of Thursday, judges in 23 counties were issuing licenses to everyone, in 18 they were issuing licenses to opposite-sex couples only, and 26 were not issuing any licenses to anyone. Granade’s ruling only applies to this particular judge because the four couples who sued in her court and won all applied for licenses in this jurisdiction. Davis claims that he is bound by the order of the state chief justice Roy Moore, his direct superior, to not issue licenses. Granade did not say what she would do if Davis continued to defy the ban but a contempt citation would seem likely.
Meanwhile Moore suggested that he might be willing to dissent even in the face of a ruling by the US Supreme Court in favor of same-sex marriage, which would lead to a truly epic confrontation. Paragraph 2 of Article VI of the US Constitution says that “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.” This clause, known as the Supremacy Clause, is pretty unambiguous so it is not clear where Moore gets to think that he can dissent.
The Daily Show discussed the bizarre situation that is developing in Alabama.
(This clip aired on February 11, 2015. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Nightly Show outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)