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Alabama on a collision course with the Supreme Court over gay marriage

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Alabama could be on the edge of a constitutional crisis because of tensions over same-sex marriage that have pitted the state’s chief justice against the supreme court in a battle over state and federal law.

Last week, a federal judge ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, just as her colleagues across the US have been doing over the past two years. Alabama officials are nonetheless putting up a fight, even though advocates for marriage equality are optimistic that the supreme court will this year rule against all state bans.

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“Alabama has so far been more resistant to complying with the judge’s order and opinion than almost any other state,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

Related: Legal same sex marriage is coming to Alabama – it’s just a question of when | Steven W Thrasher

US district court judge Callie Granade struck down Alabama’s ban on Friday of last week . On Tuesday, she ruled against the ban again in a separate case, citing her previous ruling. Both decisions are temporarily on hold, though, so no same-sex marriages have happened in the state.

Granade, who was appointed by President George W Bush, said the ban was unconstitutional, echoing rulings made by judges at state, district and appellate level in the past two years. As several states have done before, Alabama appealed.

Alabama supreme court chief justice Roy Moore sent a letter to the state’s governor, saying the US constitution does not give the federal government the power to regulate Alabama law. He also said state judges should not issue licenses for same-sex marriages, though he did not legally prohibit them from doing so.

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This led Granade to clarify in an order on Wednesday that state judges would have to allow same-sex marriages if the stays on her rulings were lifted. The Alabama Probate Judges Association said it would follow her judgement.

“The letter was extremely unusual and is based on very shaky legal grounds at best,” said Sonja West, associate law professor at the University of Georgia, about Moore’s words.

The supremacy clause of the US constitution says federal law takes precedence over state law. The most notable instances of states refusing to abide by such federal directives have primarily concerned racial issues.

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Rulings for both Alabama cases are on hold until 9 February and the state has filed a request for an appeal in the 11th US circuit court. If its appeal is granted, Granade’s ruling will be stayed until the supreme court makes a ruling on same-sex marriage. That is due by the end of June. If the state’s appeal is denied, same-sex marriages will begin in Alabama, which will be the 37th state to legalize such nuptials.

The situation in Alabama is almost identical to what happened in Florida, where same-sex marriage became legal earlier this month. Florida officials fought rulings striking down the state’s ban, including one that applied to a specific county. This led to confusion across the state in county clerk offices, where marriage licenses are issued.

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Eventually, the 11th circuit and the supreme court refused to grant stays on a district judge’s ruling against the state’s ban.

“There’s some real tension in the air between the federal judge’s ruling and state compliance,” said Tobias. “We’ll see what happens.”

The plaintiffs in the first Alabama case, Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, married legally in California. They brought the challenge because Searcy is not allowed under Alabama state law to adopt McKeand’s biological son. A state and appeals court ruled against the couple before Granade ruled in their favor.

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The plaintiffs in the second case, James Strawser and John Humphrey, are seeking the ability to get a marriage license in Alabama. They have not been married in another state.

The supreme court said earlier this month that it will take up the issue in its current session.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2015


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Russian trolls start hyping COVID-19 misinformation — and Rudy Giuliani’s crazed rants about the Bidens

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Russian trolls recently have started hyping a mix of misinformation about the coronavirus and crazed conspiracy theories posted by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.

The Daily Beast reports that one of the trolls' main information operations revolves around blaming the United States Department of Defense for purportedly creating the coronavirus, even though all credible epidemiologists agree it originated in China.

"The story, posted to Russian-language blogs and Reddit by multiple fake personas, tries to pin the blame on the COVID-19 outbreak on the U.S. and Kazakhstan by casting the virus as the byproduct of a U.S. nonproliferation program in the country," the publication finds. "The trolls pointed to social media posts by a group of hackers calling themselves 'Anonymous Kazakhstan.'"

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New single-day record for NY virus deaths but hospitalizations fall

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America's coronavirus epicenter of New York recorded a new single-day high of 799 COVID-19 deaths Thursday but Governor Andrew Cuomo said the rate of hospitalizations continued to fall.

Cuomo said 799 people died in the last 24 hours, outdoing the previous high of 779 announced on Wednesday, but added that the curve was flattening because of social confinement measures.

"We had a 200-net increase in hospitalizations, which you can see is the lowest number we've had since this nightmare started," Cuomo told reporters, adding that intensive care admissions were also at the lowest yet.

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Meghan McCain nails Trump after he attempts to honor former prisoners of war

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This Thursday, President Trump fired off a tweet commemorating National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day, writing, "we honor the more than 500,000 American warriors captured while protecting our way of life. We pay tribute to these Patriots for their unwavering and unrelenting spirit!"

The post was noticed by Meghan McCain, who is a talk show host and daughter of the late Arizona Senator John McCain, who Trump disparaged in past comments regarding his being taken prisoner during the Vietnam war.

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