(Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday reaffirmed her earlier ruling that same-sex couples in Alabama have a right to wed under the Constitution, but she put the ruling on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court issues a landmark decision on gay marriage.
U.S. District Judge Callie Granade in January overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage, in a ruling that went into effect the following month and led probate judges throughout much of the state to begin issuing licenses to the couples.
In March, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses. Attorneys on behalf of same-sex couples later sought a ruling from Granade to formally define as a plaintiff class all same-sex couples seeking to legally wed in the state.
Granade on Thursday granted that request and reaffirmed her earlier decision, even as she acknowledged that probate judges will be faced with either complying with a direction from the Alabama Supreme Court or complying with her own order.
"However, the choice should be simple," Granade wrote in her 14-page opinion. "Under the Supremacy Clause (of the U.S. Constitution), the laws of the United States are 'the supreme Law of the Land.'"
While same-sex marriage is legal in 37 states and Washington D.C. and public opinion polls showing increasing support for it, conservative lawmakers in some states have redoubled their opposition.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a ruling expected this summer, will take up the issue of whether states can ban gay marriage. As a result, Grenade wrote that she was putting her latest ruling on hold until the Supreme Court hands down its decision.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Nick Macfie)