Alabama Same-Sex Couples Await Supreme Court Word On Marriage

Alabama officials have asked Justice Clarence Thomas to stop same-sex marriage rulings from going into effect on Feb. 9. The Human Rights Campaign pushes for removal of Alabama chief justice for actions criticizing the federal court marriage rulings.

As two same-sex couples from Alabama asked the U.S. Supreme Court to deny the state's request to issue a stay in their cases while the state appeals the matter, the nation's largest LGBT group called for the removal of Alabama's chief justice — who has questioned the authority of the federal court in the same-sex marriage cases.

Trial court rulings in a pair of cases by U.S District Court Judge Callie Granade, in which she ruled that Alabama's marriage ban is unconstitutional, are due to take effect on Feb. 9, under a current order from Granade.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the state's request to issue a further stay of the ruling, and Attorney General Luther Strange has now asked Justice Clarence Thomas to issue a stay pending the state's appeal. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley also weighed in at the high court in support of a stay, but the same-sex couples who brought the lawsuits opposed the request on Thursday.

"[Alabama] points to nothing that would justify issuance of a stay in this case when recent orders of this Court have had the effect of dissolving all stays in every other case raising the same constitutional issues," lawyers from the National Center for Lesbian Rights wrote in defense of James Strawser and John Humphrey, who are seeking to marry in Alabama.

The justices have denied stay applications in marriage cases involving other states since October 2014, but this application is the first to reach the justices since they agreed to review the constitutionality of such bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Those watching those marriage cases are watching the stay issue closely. If the justices deny Alabama's request, the move would be the strongest sign yet that the Supreme Court — at least a majority of the justices — are preparing to issue a national marriage equality ruling come this June. If they grant the stay, on the other hand, it would be more of a sign that the justices have decided the marriage cases should be kept in a holding pattern until they can issue a decision in the other states' cases.

The Human Rights Campaign, meanwhile, weighed in Thursday on the recent actions of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Despite the fact that the cases at issue are in federal court, Moore has weighed in criticizing the rulings twice — once in a letter to the governor and once in a letter and legal memorandum to probate judges, who grant marriage licenses in Alabama.

"Chief Justice Roy Moore is lawlessly disregarding the binding ruling of a federal judge, and he's encouraging other statewide officeholders to do the same," HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said in a statement joining in support of the Southern Poverty Law Center's ethics complaint against Moore. "Moore's personal opinions are not at issue here. As a lawyer and as a judge, he has an obligation to follow the law. If he refuses to do so, he should be removed from office."

An HRC spokesperson told BuzzFeed News this is the first time the organization has called for the removal of a judge and, so far as anyone can recall, the first time the organization has ever called for the removal of any elected official.

Moore already was removed from office once before, in 2003, when he refused to remove a Ten Commandments replica from his courtroom in defiance of a court order.

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