MONTGOMERY, Ala. (CNS) — Same-sex couples began marrying Feb. 9 in Alabama after the U.S. Supreme Court refused a request from the state’s attorney general to prevent such marriages from taking place until the high court rules later this year on the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage.

The court’s action cleared the way for Alabama to become the 37th state to allow same-sex couples to marry.

U.S. District Court Judge Callie “Ginny” Granade in Jan. 23 and Jan. 26 rulings said that Alabama’s 1998 law and its 2006 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage were both unconstitutional but she put her decision on hold until Feb. 9 to let the state prepare for the change.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, who requested that the hold be extended, said in a statement that the Supreme Court’s decision not to block same-sex marriages will likely to lead to more confusion.

“No court decision can change the truth” about marriage, Mobile Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi said in a Jan. 26 statement released by archdiocese. “The truth is marriage is between a man and a woman. People can choose to love and live with whomever they wish but that does not make it a marriage.”

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder announced in early February that his state would extend spousal benefits to about 300 same-sex couples who married last year, on March 22, when the state’s same-sex marriage ban was temporarily lifted. On March 23 an appeals court suspended the decision and blocked additional marriages.

On Jan. 16, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear four cases over the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, tackling the questions of whether the 14th Amendment requires states to allow such marriages and whether it requires them to recognize same-sex marriages licensed in other states. It accepted petitions from Tennessee, Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio, consolidating them into one hearing. Oral arguments will probably take place in late April.

The Catholic Church upholds marriage as a union between one man and one woman and teaches that any sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful. The church also teaches that homosexual attraction itself is not sinful and that homosexual people “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

After Granade handed down her rulings, Archbishop Rodi in his statement expressed hope that the United States would “respect religious liberty” and not force people of faith to act against their beliefs on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Legalization of such marriages has “profound consequences in many other laws and could affect church ministries,” he said. “Believers must be prepared to continue to call our nation to respect religious liberty.”

In Michigan, when a federal judge struck down that state’s same-sex marriage ban, approved by voters in 2004, the Michigan Catholic Conference said the judge’s March 21 decision to temporarily lift the ban “strikes at the very essence of family, community and human nature.”

“This decision advances a misunderstanding of marriage and mistakenly proposes that marriage is an emotional arrangement that can simply be redefined to accommodate the dictates of culture and the wants of adults,” said a statement from the conference, which is the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops.

As the case moves forward through the courts, “it is necessary to state clearly that persons with same-sex attraction should not be judged, but rather accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity,” it added.