March 4, 2016 / 11:12 PM / 2 years ago

Alabama high court tosses petitions challenging gay marriage

(This story corrects headline and first paragraph to show that petitions, not lawsuit, were dismissed adds details on suit and ruling in paragraphs 1, 2, 3 and 4.)

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) - The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday dismissed petitions by a probate judge and conservative religious groups who want the state’s ban on same-sex marriages enforced.

In a one-sentence order, the high court turned aside efforts by the Alabama Citizens Action Program, the Alabama Policy Institute and the Elmore County probate judge to block the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that effectively allowed same-sex unions.

“It is ordered that all pending motions and petitions are dismissed,” the court said. The groups had asked the high court to issue an order that Alabama would no longer issue same-sex marriage licenses and would only honor licenses issued by the federal government or by a state where gay marriage was legal.

The Alabama Supreme Court also issued a certificate of judgment listing its 2015 orders in which it upheld the constitutionality of Alabama’s marriage laws.

The court fight started in January 2015 when a federal judge in Alabama overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Some state courts went along, but others balked. The Mobile County probate court said at the time that it would stop issuing marriage licenses to anyone, gay or straight, until further notice.

Subsequent lawsuits ended up in the state Supreme Court, culminating in Friday’s decision.

Chief Justice Roy Moore, an outspoken opponent of same-sex unions, wrote a long opinion attacking the decision.

Richard Cohen, president of the Alabama-based civil rights group, the Southern Law Poverty Center, applauded the decision but said the court did not go far enough.

“You can go to any courthouse in Alabama on Monday and get a marriage license, except for those few holdouts that aren’t issuing licenses to anyone, gay or straight,” Cohen said.

He said he wished that the court’s wording was stronger and criticized state high court justices who dissented against the ruling.

Joe Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizens Action Program, said the group might turn to the state legislature for laws that would protect judges and clerks from having to perform same-sex unions against their religious convictions.

Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Sandra Maler and Dan Grebler

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