Alabama high court rejects challenge to gay marriage

Gay Marriage Allowed in Ala. Despite Top Judge's Order

ATLANTA, March 4 (Reuters) - The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the right to same-sex marriage, dismissing a challenge by conservative religious groups that opposed such unions.

In a one-sentence order, the high court turned aside a lawsuit by the Alabama Citizens Action Program and the Alabama Policy Institute questioning the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that effectively allowed same-sex unions.

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"It is ordered that all pending motions and petitions are dismissed," the court said in ending the legal battle.

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, 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 ruling 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)

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