Roy Moore, Alabama’s top judge, threw a fit this week over a federal court decision ordering the state to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The result was unnecessary statewide confusion.

We trust that Alabama’s leaders, starting with the probate judges responsible for issuing marriage licenses, will bring the state into compliance with the court’s ruling. The number of probate judges refusing to comply dropped Tuesday. If that trend does not continue, state or federal authorities should step in more strongly.

Before the latest events, there were signs that the U.S. Supreme Court would likely articulate a broad constitutional right to equal marriage this year. The justices had previously declined to stay lower court decisions requiring same-sex marriage in other states, and they did so again Monday when the Alabama district court’s order came to the justices for review. This time, though, Justice Clarence Thomas did the tea-leaf reading for court observers, writing that the justices’ action “may well be seen as a signal of the Court’s intended resolution” of the same-sex marriage question.

It’s not clear that every Alabama probate judge who declined to marry gay men and lesbians this week did so out of protest; Justice Moore warned them that complying with the federal order could expose them to sanction from the governor. In fact, Republican Gov. Robert Bentley said he would not punish probate judges for issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

As federal judges have obliterated state same-sex marriage bans – there are now 37 equal-marriage states – there has been surprisingly little backlash, even in other deeply conservative states. The Alabama episode has been unusually fierce. This week’s events shouldn’t discourage the Supreme Court from deciding in favor of marriage equality this year.