(CN ) - The Supreme Court on Monday declined to stop same-sex marriages in Alabama, just hours before a ruling striking down the state's gay marriage ban was to go into effect.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange had hoped the justice would extend a stay on U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade's January ruling overturning the state's ban on same-sex marriages until after the high court rules on pending challenges to similar bans in four other states.
In the wake of Granade's ruling, Strange appealed to the 11th Circuit, but the appellate court has since placed a hold on the case and similar cases in Florida and Georgia.
Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the denial of the stay, writing in a three-page opinion that "[w]hen courts declare state laws unconstitutional and enjoin state officials from enforcing them, our ordinary practice is to suspend those injunctions from taking effect pending appellate review."
While Thomas conceded that "a stay is not a matter of right," he noted that "it is a rare case in which a State will be unable to make at least some showing of a likelihood of success on the merits."
"It was thus no surprise when we granted a stay in similar situations a little over a year ago ..." he continued. "This application should have been treated no differently."
He also offered a sharp rebuke for his colleagues in the majority.
"Today's decision represents yet another example of this Court's increasingly cavalier attitude toward the State's," Thomas said. "Over the past few months, the Court has repeatedly denied stays of lower court judgments enjoining the enforcement of state laws on questionable constitutional grounds."
The high court's decision came against a backdrop of defiance in Alabama. On Sunday night Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy S. Moore issued a six-page order to the state's probate judges, telling them not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday.
"Effective immediately, no probate judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama probate judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent" with state law," wrote the chief justice, who is perhaps best known for defying a federal judge's 2003 order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from court house grounds.
That maneuver temporarily cost him his job. But Moore was returned to the post of chief justice in 2012.
Despite Moore's direction, several probate courts in Alabama began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as they opened their doors this morning.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.