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Alabama Chief Justice Ray Moore Says Courts Overstepped on Gay Marriage

 / Updated 
Image: Roy Moore
Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama.Dave Martin / AP file

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Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama, who tried to stop gay marriage there with a last-minute order, insisted Monday that the federal courts have overstepped their authority by ordering the state to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

“The U.S. district courts have no power or authority to redefine marriage,” he told NBC News by phone. “Once you start redefining marriage, that’s the ultimate power. Would it overturn the laws of incest? Bigamy? Polygamy? How far do they go?”

“A lot of states in this union have caved to such unlawful authority, and this is not one,” he said. “This is Alabama. We don’t give up the recognition that law has bounds.”

Gay couples began marrying in Alabama on Monday after the Supreme Court declined to block a federal judge’s order requiring Alabama to license same-sex marriages.

On Sunday night, Moore forbade state probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Marriages went ahead anyway, and at least one probate judge told NBC News that Moore’s order was without merit. "I have a duty to follow the United States Constitution," said Judge Alan King of Jefferson County Probate Court.

Moore said that the federal rulings were invalid because the party representing the state, Attorney General Luther Strange, has no authority over probate judges, who issue licenses.

The chief justice is known for installing a Ten Commandments monument in 2001 at the state judicial building. He was removed from office in 2003 but returned by voters in 2012.

Moore said that it would be up to Gov. Robert Bentley to make any move to try to stop gay marriage now. Bentley’s office did not immediately return a call for comment.

Moore rejected any comparisons to the civil rights movement.

“I disagree with standing in the schoolhouse door to prevent blacks from getting equal education,” he said. “We’re talking about a constitutional amendment to preserve the recognition that marriage is one man and one woman, as it has been for centuries.”

IN-DEPTH

— Erin McClam

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