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Judge strikes down Alabama same-sex marriage ban, but puts hold on ruling

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A federal judge in Alabama ruled Thursday that same-sex couples have the right to marry throughout the state, but she put her ruling on hold until the Supreme Court decides the issue this spring.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade in Mobile had issued a preliminary injunction in February prohibiting the state Attorney General Luther Strange and Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis from enforcing Alabama’s laws, which prohibit same-sex marriage. But the ruling was challenged by probate judges who refused to abide by it, and their argument was bolstered by a conflicting opinion by the Alabama Supreme Court.

The ruling by the state’s highest court left gay and lesbian couples in legal limbo between federal and state courts.

But in Thursday’s ruling, Granade makes clear that the order applies statewide.

“This injunction binds all the officers, agents, servants and employees, and others in active concert or participation with Judge Don Davis, Judge Tim Russell or any of the members of the defendant class who would seek to enforce the marriage laws of Alabama which prohibit or fail to recognize same-sex marriage,” she wrote.

She referenced the dispute between her previous opinion and the state Supreme Court, and said that probate judges “cannot be held liable for violating Alabama state law when their conduct was required by the United States Constitution.”

Supporters of same-sex marriage praised the ruling.

“Judge Granade’s ruling is decisive and definitive,” said David Dinielli, the deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Legal Center. “It ends the chaos and confusion that Attorney General Strange and Chief Justice (Roy) Moore have intentionally caused through their reckless rejection of federal constitutional principles.”

In a statement released to Al.com, the attorney general’s office said it welcomed Granade’s decision to put the ruling on hold.

“We’ve said from the beginning that the U.S. Supreme Court would have the final say in this matter,” the office said. “Had Judge Granade heeded our request that she stay her order from the start, we could have avoided a tremendous amount of chaos and confusion. The good news here is that Judge Granade has finally accepted our advice and issued a stay.”