Alabama's controversial chief justice, Roy Moore, issued an order to probate judges Sunday that they cannot perform same-sex marriages — one day before gay men and lesbians could begin marrying in the state under a federal ruling.
Moore, who has written several letters and orders on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage in the Southern state, said interpretations of a federal judge's decision to strike down Alabama's ban in January were "creating confusion and disarray in the administration of the law."
Gay couples were expected to still line up at courthouses across Alabama Monday seeking to get married. It was unknown how many of the state's probate judges would follow Moore.
"To ensure the orderly administration of justice," Moore wrote, "effective immediately, no probate judge of the state of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama probate judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license."
"A marriage contracted between individuals of the same sex is invalid in this state," he wrote.
Moore, known for installing a disputed Ten Commandments monument in 2001 at the judicial building that led to his eventual removal from office, released his order ahead of the debut of same-sex marriage in Alabama on Monday.
The state had asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to put a federal judge's ruling striking down the ban on hold while the Supreme Court prepares to hear four similar same-sex marriage cases and settle the issue nationwide. But the court denied the request.
The federal judge in Mobile had put a self-imposed hold on her order until Monday, clearing the way for same-sex marriages to start. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia allow gay men and lesbians to wed.
A civil rights group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, has filed a judicial ethics complaint against Moore, saying his comments urging judges to disregard the federal ruling were "encouraging lawlessness."