Alabama's top judge rebels against gay marriage ruling

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Billy Clark and Kerry Perez, both 26, have been waiting to get married for four years. On Monday, they did it after an Alabama judge issued their license.

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Kerry Perez, left, and Billy Clark, after getting a marriage license in Alabama
CBS News

"It feels really good to have people recognize what we've always known to be true," said Clark.

Last month a federal judge struck down Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage, finding it violated the U.S. constitution. That decision took effect Monday but not without judicial chaos.

"It's an aberration of our institution in Alabama," said Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court. "It violated Alabama law."

In a defiant challenge to federal authority, Justice Moore ordered Alabama's probate judges not to issue marriage licenses.

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Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court
CBS News

"I don't like to say anybody shouldn't be happy, but nobody is stopping them from living together," said Justice Moore. "It is about the institution of marriage. And when that institution is destroyed, it is the basic building block of our society."

In a state where most residents oppose same sex marriage, many Alabama judges sided with Justice Moore, leaving some license bureaus empty.

It's not the first time Justice Moore has been at the center of a battle between state and federal power. In 2003 he refused to obey a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from a courthouse.

Civil rights activists say Monday's battle is only the latest example of Alabama resisting federal power. They compare it to 1963 when then-Governor George Wallace stood in the doorway at the University of Alabama in opposition to federal orders to integrate Alabama's schools.

Justice Moore denies there is a connection between then and now.

"This is not about race," said Justice Moore. "This is not about recognition that all people are created equal. This is about choice."

No one here in Alabama knows what is going to happen next. The one thing we do know is that despite that federal order - in most of Alabama - same-sex couples cannot get a marriage license.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.