According to Alabama’s high court, the legality of same-sex marriage is and should be an issue of state’s rights. If a state can be allowed to redefine marriage, it should also be legally permitted to keep the old definition.

Responding to a petition filed last month by the Alabama Policy Institute (API) and the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ACAP), on Tuesday, March 3 the Alabama Supreme Court ordered all probate judges in the state to discontinue issuing of same-sex marriage licenses. This order is in conflict with a February ruling by a federal court that opened courthouse doors in the state to same-sex couples seeking licenses.

“As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman,” justices wrote. “Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.”

Justices concluded that while other states, specifically New York in the order, have chosen a “new definition” of marriage, Alabama has adhered to the traditional definition throughout its existence. 

“If New York was free to make that choice, it would seem inconsistent to say that Alabama is not free to make its own choice,” the order reads.

The order refers to a Jan. 26 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Callie Grenade, who concluded that the "prohibition and non-recognition of same-sex marriage…violate the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

API and ACAP in their petition contended that Alabama probate judges were being asked to violate the state’s constitution in order to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

“The sanctity of marriage — an institute that has always been reserved for the states — is a cause worth fighting for, for as long as the states still have their rightful say in the matter,” API released following the Supreme Court order.

LGBT rights organization the Human Rights Campaign said the order “has no foundation in constitutional law.”

“The Alabama state Supreme Court does not have the authority to interfere with a federal court order,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow in a release. “This order is outrageous and baffling, and no amount of legalese can hide the bare animus that forms the foundation of this extralegal ruling.”

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