MONTGOMERY, Ala., Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Alabama began handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by the state to delay the marriages.
A federal judge struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriagein January, calling the existing law unconstitutional.
At the time, the state attorney general's office said it intended to ask the Supreme Court for a stay pending the court's ruling on same-sex marriage later this year.
The court ruled that the marriages should proceed Monday, though not unanimously.
"In this case, the Court refuses even to grant a temporary stay when it will resolve the issue at hand in several months," Justice Clarence Thomas said. "I would have shown the people of Alabama the respect they deserve and preserved the status quo while the Court resolves this important Constitutional question."
Meanwhile, Roy Moore, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court on Sunday ordered probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
"The Court of Appeals and, so far, the Supreme Court of the United States has seen fit not to continue the stay," said Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. "But, instead of respecting these rulings, the Chief Justice has decided to create a crisis in our state but telling the probate judges to ignore the ruling of the district court and threatening them with unspecified gubernatorial action. It's outrageous. We urge the probate judges to follow the Constitution of the United States and issue marriage licenses when their offices open in the morning."
"It's a great day in Alabama for everyone who cherishes freedom," Cohen added of the state granting same-sex marriage licenses.