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Top Alabama judge orders state to ignore federal gay marriage rulings



Hours before Alabama was set to become the first state in the Deep South to legalize same-sex marriage, the state's top justice Sunday night ordered local judges to ignore federal court orders to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

 It was not immediately clear what effect the order from Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy S. Moore might have -- beyond tempting a constitutional showdown with federal courts who oversee the state, or a possible reprimand.

 After a federal appeals court last week declined to impose a stay of a U.S. district judge's January ruling striking down Alabama's same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional, conservative probate judges across the state had bristled in anticipation of Monday, when they were supposed to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

The order by Moore, a well-known conservative firebrand, marks the most drastic protest yet to a wave of federal rulings that have struck down such bans as unconstitutional over the last year.

Other states and conservative groups had sought to fight federal rulings by appealing to federal appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, whose mandates take precedence over state law. Moore's order, however, argues that if the state issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples -- before the U.S. Supreme Court makes a widely expected ruling on same-sex marriage several months from now -- the state's argument in favor of a ban would be "mooted," undermining the legal process.  To preserve legal harmony in the state, Moore said, he was ordering local judges to ignore the federal ruling.


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