Alabama began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Monday, despite an 11th-hour attempt from the state's chief justice -- an outspoken opponent -- to block the weddings.

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday morning that it wouldn't stop the marriages from beginning in the state, and shortly after, Jefferson County probate judge Alan King issued several licenses.

He did so despite Chief Justice Roy Moore's Sunday night order to all probate judges, directing them to refuse to issue the licenses.

One of the licenses went to Dee and Laura Bush, who have been together for seven years and have five kids between them.

"It is great that we were able to be part of history," said Dee Bush. After receiving her license, she and Laura walked outside to a park where a minister was performing wedding ceremonies to cheers from crowds.

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By issuing licenses, King says he was abiding by the federal court order from January that determined Alabama's statutory and constitutional bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Callie Granade had put her order on hold until Monday to let the state prepare for the change. The state attorney general has requested that the hold be extended, but the U.S. Supreme Court refused to do so.

Moore's order to probate judges was a dramatic return to defiance for the chief justice. He was removed from the post in 2003 for refusing to obey a federal court order to remove a washing machine-sized Ten Commandments from the state judicial building. Critics lashed out that Moore had no authority to tell county probate judges to enforce a law that a federal judge already ruled unconstitutional. He's been one of the state's most outspoken critics of gay marriage; in 2002 he called homosexuality an "evil" in a custody ruling.

"This is a pathetic, last-ditch attempt at judicial fiat by an Alabama Supreme Court justice--a man who should respect the rule of law rather than advance his personal beliefs," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign.