Amanda Keller holds a flag as she joins other gay marriage supporters in Linn Park at the Jefferson County courthouse on Feb. 9 in Birmingham, Ala. Alabama began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop the marriages from beginning in the conservative Southern state. (Hal Yeager/AP)

 

The Alabama Supreme Court acknowledged Friday that it was bound by last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, and rejected petitions by conservatives who wanted the state’s ban on gay unions enforced.

The state had been a high-profile holdout on same-sex marriage, which technically became legal in the state last February after a decision by a federal judge. The state court, under the leadership of its firebrand chief justice, Roy Moore, tried repeatedly to block the marriages from going forward there even after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision last summer.

In a written decision Friday, a majority of the justices capitulated, including Moore. But the decision provided Moore yet another opportunity to blast same-sex marriage and condemn homosexuality as part of the 170-page opinion.

Quoting the 1974 song “Feelings” by Albert Morris, and comparing the arguments in favor of same-sex marriage to a Greek tragedy, Moore accused the high court of relying too heavily on emotional arguments while ignoring historical and biblical mandates about the nature of marriage.

“Based upon arguments of ‘love,’ ‘commitment’ and ‘equal dignity’ for same-sex couples, five lawyers … have declared a new social policy for the entire country,” Moore wrote. He called the decision “lawless” and condemned gay relationships as “unnatural.”

Despite the lengthy, strongly worded opinion, it appeared that the justices finally gave in to reality, said Susan Watson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama.

“In the end, they realize, whether they like it or not, the national U.S. Supreme Court decision holds and that’s the law of the land,” she said.

Watson predicted that the decision would make little difference for couples on the ground. The vast majority of the state’s 67 counties were already issuing marriage licenses to gay and straight couples, she said, despite an administrative order from Moore in January ordering a halt to gay unions.

There are about 10 to 12 counties that have stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether, she said. As of Friday evening, it was unclear whether any would change course as a result of the ruling.