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A seismic judicial clash concerning same-sex marriage rights


It's not like readers in Arkansas or elsewhere who are interested in knowing about developments across the country relating to same-sex marriage might casually turn their heads toward a news story that just surfaced out of Alabama.

Rather, they're going to snap to attention in a hurry, given a ruling issued this past Tuesday by that state's highest court that flatly challenges -- in fact, openly defies -- an earlier federal court ruling concerning gay marriage in Alabama.

Here's a quick summary. A same-sex couple was denied the right to marry in Alabama. A federal court subsequently invalidated the state's ban on same-sex marriage. State officials sought U.S. Supreme Court intervention on the matter and got it, but with an unwanted result: the nation's highest court refused to stay the lower federal court's ruling until the Supreme Court issues a ruling on gay marriage that is expected to be announced later this year. In essence, that ruling permitted same-sex marriages to proceed in the state.

The Alabama court ruled otherwise earlier this week, stating that it has just as much right to opine on the constitutionality of the matter as does a federal court. The court's opinion stated that "state courts may interpret the United States Constitution independently from, and even contrary to, federal courts" until the point that the U.S. Supreme Court definitively decides a legal issue through a ruling.

That judicial take is absolutely uncommon, with federal court decisions historically -- and routinely -- trumping state court rulings on matters regarding constitutional issues.

It is certainly a notable development. We will keep readers updated.

Source: The Washington Post, "In defiant ruling, Alabama Supreme Court stops same-sex marriage in state," Fred Barbash, March 4, 2015

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