AL chief justice: Rulings don't require judges to issue gay marriage licenses

Published: Feb. 4, 2015 at 2:13 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 12, 2015 at 2:13 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Following the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to deny Alabama's request to keep a stay in place on U.S. District Judge Ginny Grenade's ruling that would lift the ban on same sex marriage in Alabama, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore addressed the judicial offices that will likely be most impacted by this ruling: Alabama's probate judges.

Moore handed down guidance to the state's probate judges in a 27-page memorandum. Explaining the federal judge's ruling is something he is called to do as the head of the Unified Judicial System. Moore cited a quote by Monroe County's Probate Judge as another reason why this memorandum was written.

"A news story has quoted the Honorable Greg Norris, President of the Alabama Probate Judges Association, as saying, 'I don't think I have had a week like this in my life.' I hope this memorandum will assist the weary, beleaguered, and perplexed probate judges to unravel the meaning of the actions of the federal district court in Mobile, namely that the rulings in the marriage cases do not require you to issue marriage licenses that are illegal under Alabama law," Moore wrote in the memorandum.

As Moore stated in previous interviews, he feels marriage is a state issue. Moreover, he does not feel the lower federal courts, in this case the Southern District Court of Alabama, have the authority to overrule Alabama law. Moore contends that the only people affected by this ruling are those who are named in the case, and no one else.

"Judge Granade's orders apply to the parties to the case, but under a straightforward application of Rule 65 (d) (2), Fed. R. Civ. P., those orders have no effect on the probate judges of Alabama. 'A judgement or decree among parties to a lawsuit resolves issues as among them, but it does not conclude the rights of strangers to those proceedings.' Martin v. Wilks, 490 U.S. 755, 762 (1989)," Moore wrote.

Moore said probate judges are in control of their offices in their counties, and this decision will be left to their discretion as independent constitutional officers of the judicial branch of government.

"...Federal district and circuit courts have no appellate jurisdiction over state courts. 'A decision of a federal district court judge is not binding precedent in either a different judicial district, the same judicial district, or even upon the same judge in a different case.' Camreta v. Greene, 131 S. Ct. 2020, 2033 n.7 (2011)," Moore wrote.

"Numerous Alabama cases confirm this reason. '(I)n determining federal common law, we defer only to the holdings of the United States Supreme Court and our own interpretations of federal law. Legal principles and holdings from inferior federal courts have no controlling effect here, although they can serve as persuasive authority.' Glass v. Birmingham So. R.R., 905 So. 2d 7890, 794 (Ala. 2004)," Moore wrote.

Halfway through the memorandum, Moore cites a study, "A House Divided: When State and Lower Federal Courts Disagree on Federal Constitutional Rights." Moore says the findings show 46 states and the District of Columbia adopt the position that the precedents of lower federal courts are not binding in their jurisdictions.

Moore concluded the memorandum stating the probate judges must render their own decisions regarding the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses, and in his legal opinion, based on the cases cited in the brief, the probate judges were not required to issue same-sex marriage licenses as it would be a violation of their oaths to uphold the Alabama Constitution.

Copyright 2015 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.