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Religious Tolerance logo

Recognition of same-sex marriage (SSM) & LGBT equality

Part 2: Alabama:
2015-JAN-23: Marriage equality arrives.
Probate Judge Association denies SSM.
State requests extended stay of ruling.
Plaintiffs' response.

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In this web site, the acronym "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage. Also, "LGBT"
refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender/Transsexual community

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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gavel2015-JAN-23: District Court judge rules same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional:

On 2015-JAN-23, Judge Callie V.S. "Ginny" Granade of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama issued her ruling. She had reached the same conclusions as had dozens of state and federal judges during the previous 19 months -- ever since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the Wilson v. United States case. That was the case that declared a key section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. She concluded that that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was also unconstitutional.

Her ruling was based on the now familiar concept that such bans violate the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. These clauses require federal, state, and local governments to treat people and couples equally, unless there is a very strong reason why they should be discriminated against.

She concluded that allowing same-sex parents to marry would not have any negative affect on opposite-sex parents and their children. She believes that the welfare of children should be the primary consideration in such matters. She wrote in her ruling:

"If anything, Alabama’s prohibition of same-sex marriage detracts from its goal of promoting optimal environments for children. Those children currently being raised by same-sex parents in Alabama are just as worthy of protection and recognition by the State as are the children being raised by opposite-sex parents. 

Yet Alabama’s Sanctity laws harms the children of same-sex couples for the same reasons that the Supreme Court found that the Defense of Marriage Act harmed the children of same-sex couples." 1

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thumb down image 2015-JAN-24: Alabama Probate Judges Association claims that marriage equality has not come to Alabama after all:

In most states, couples obtain a marriage license from the county clerk. However, in Alabana, this task is handled by probate judges.

Just because a federal judge declares that the bans against marriages by same-sex couples in the state Constitution and state marriage statute are unconstitutional and void, one cannot expect everyone to accept that marriage equality has come to Alabama. The Alabama Probate Judges Association -- and later Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Supreme Court of Alabama -- had different interpretations of the roles and scope of federal courts. This is a state in the Deep South, after all, and centuries of discrimination die hard.

The Association sent out a press release on the evening of Saturday, JAN-24 concerning the District Court's ruling in the case Searcy v. Strange. It said in part:

"Many media outlets are reporting that the ruling, issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade, will allow same sex couples to receive marriage licenses in Alabama beginning Monday morning. The Alabama Probate Judges Association wants to ensure that all Alabamians are clear that Friday's ruling does not open the door for the issuance of same sex marriage licenses."

"Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand are the only plaintiffs in the case that was filed against Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. The Alabama Probate Judges Association says that is a key point in the effect that this ruling has on the duties of probate judges." 2

Al Agricola, attorney for the Association, stated in the press release:

"Judge Granade's ruling in this case only applies to the parties in the case and has no effect on anybody that is not a named party. The probate judges were not parties in this matter. The legal effect of this decision is to allow one person in one same sex marriage that was performed in another state to adopt their partner's child. There is nothing in the judge's order that requires probate judges in Alabama to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples."

Judge Greg Norris, president of the Association, expressed concern that the general public may misunderstand the scope of the district Court ruling. He wrote in the statement:

"As probate judges, our duty is to issue marriage licenses in accordance with Alabama law and that means we cannot legally issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. The recent federal ruling does not change that." 2

In other words, the state constitutional and statute bans on marriage by same-sex couples that have been declared unconstitutional by the District Court judge are still constitutional.

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wedding rings2015-JAN-25: State of Alabama asks that the District Court ruling be stayed for about 6 months. Plaintiffs' response:

Within hours of the District Court's decision, the State asked District Court Judge Granade to place an extended stay on her decision to legalize marriages by same-sex couples. This would have prevented such couples from marrying until at least the time that the U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision in a case that it recently accepted. The case will likely be called Obergefell v. Hodges. It involves appeals to the high court of four SSM lawsuits from four states, one each from: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee. That court's decision is expected in late 2015-June or less likely in early July.

The plaintiffs' lawyers filed a motion opposing the state's request for a lengthy stay. They also asked that Judge Granade clarify her ruling. The motion states, in part:

"Clarification is necessary as the Probate Judges association in Alabama have assumed the position like George Wallace at the schoolhouse door staring defiantly upon this Court’s order reasoning that not all citizens of Alabama are entitled to the same rights and privileges afforded under the Constitution of the United States and that as Probate Judges

'it is [their] duty to issue marriage licenses in accordance with Alabama law and that means [they] can not legally issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.'

It is respectfully submitted that this Court’s order declaring Ala. Const. Art. 1§ 36.03 (2006) and Ala. Code 1974 §30-1-19 unconstitutional for violation of the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment shall meet with immediate defiance and confusion without further clarification." 3

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Jessica Mendoza, "Judge strikes down Alabama gay marriage ban: Three things to know," The Christian Science Monitor, 2015-JAN-24, at: http://www.csmonitor.com/
  2. Daniel Reynolds, "Alabama Probate Judges Association: We 'Cannot Legally' Issue Marriage Licenses to Gay Couples," Advocate,com, 2015-JAN-25, at: http://www.advocate.com/
  3. "Plaintiffs' objection and response to defendants' motion to stay," Cari D. Searcy v. Luther Strange," Alabama Media Group, 2015-JAN-25, at: https://www.scribd.com/

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Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Alabama > here

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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2015-JAN-26
Latest update: 2015-JAN-31
Author: B.A. Robinson

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