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Religious Tolerance logo

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

Part 12: Alabama: FEB-06
2015-FEB: Full marriage equality may arrive in
AL on FEB-09, but only in some counties.
Some probate judges are not planning to issue
marriage licenses.

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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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wedding ringsWill marriage equality arrive in Alabama on the morning of FEB-09?

The answer remains "perhaps," but only in some counties where the probate judge decides to follow her or his oath of office.

The Daily Kos reported on Friday, FEB-06:

"The U.S. Supreme Court has notified attorneys for the state of Alabama and plaintiffs that there will be no ruling this weekend on the state's request for a [n extension of the] stay of Judge Callie Granade's ruling striking down Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage.

Translation: The court has decided not to decide, which is tantamount to allowing the ruling to stand.

David Kennedy, an attorney for plaintiffs Kim McKeand and Cari Searcy in Mobile, said he expects same-sex marriage licenses to be issued first thing Monday morning. He said it is somewhat unusual that the high court would not rule one way or the other since the justices of issued rulings on request to delay gay marriages from beginning in other states.

'I haven't seen one that moved this quickly, either. It seems like its moved pretty quickly'." 1

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2015-FEB-06: Some probate justices are resisting the District Court ruling by planning to not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples:

It appears that not all counties will be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Such couples may have to shop around for a nearby county where they can obtain a license.

  • Emma Margolin, writing for MSNBC, said that they were able to contact 26 probate judges on FEB-06 in Alabama. Only 18 were planning to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting on FEB-09, assuming that a last-minute ruling is not issued by the U.S. Supreme Court. 2

  • Kim Chandler, writing for the Associated Press, said:

    "Monroe County Probate Judge Greg Norris said he expects most probate judges to issue licenses, although at least one has said he will refuse until he gets greater clarity from the courts. However, several judges have said they will stop performing weddings altogether so they don’t have to marry gay couples." 3

  • Liberty Counsel, an anti-equality group who defends individuals who want to actively discriminate against lesbians, gays, and bisexuals, said that they are currently representing five judges who will be refusing to issue licenses to same-sex couples. They may be adding more in the future.

    Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said:

    The federal [District Court's] decision is not binding on these magistrates. Their directive has to come from the Alabama state court." 2

    It is unclear what Staver believes what the functions of federal courts should be. If their rulings can simply be ignored, then they might as well be disbanded.

  • Wes Allen, probate judge in Pike County announced that his office will refuse to issue marriage licenses to all couples -- same-sex and opposite sex:
  • I am choosing to take the Pike County Probate Office out of the marriage licensing business altogether. That is completely within my rights under the laws of Alabama."

He appears to be correct. Alabama Code Section 30-1-9 states:

    "Marriage licenses may be issued by the judges of probate of the several counties."

He continued:

    "The word ‘may’ implies that I have a choice. At this time, I am exercising my right to choose not to issue any marriage licenses to anyone. ... I believe that the Alabama Constitution and federal law protect my right to both live my life as a Christian and perform my elected duties. The way that the law allows me to do that is by giving me the discretion to end the issuance of marriage licenses, and that is the legal course I am taking. The people of Pike County elected me to perform my duties and they also elected me because of who I am and the values I live by." 4

Barring a last minute decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to issue an extended stay early on Monday, FEB-09, it appears that same-sex couples will be able to marry that day. The window of opportunity for same-sex couples to obtain a marriage license and marry might be only minutes or hours long. If you are half of a same-sex couple who wants to marry in Alabama, you might want to make all possible preparations to be in line at your court house, waiting for the office to open on the morning of FEB-09. You might want to have transportation handy in case you need to drive to another county to reach an office that is willing to issue you a license. 1

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2015-FEB-06: Some probate judges are refusing to marry same-sex couples:

Judges in at a few counties will be refusing to marry same-sex couples on religious grounds.

  • Chilton County Probate Judge Bobby Martin said that he will issue licenses but will not perform marriages for same-sex couples. He said:

    "I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and because of that, I will not perform a ceremony for a couple that doesn't fit in that criteria,"

  • Elmore County Probate Judge John Enslen said that he personally believes that same-sex marriage is:

    "... repugnant and repulsive to God..... In other words, I believe Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for just such unnatural conduct between the same sexes."

    This is a very widely held belief among conservative Christians. However, other Christians interpret God's extermination of the adults, children and babies in these two cities as being his reaction to men in the city, either for attempting to rape visitors, or for attempting to engage in bestiality -- sex with non-humans. (Their intended victims were angels, not humans.)

  • Geneva County Probate Judge Fred Hamic said that he will refuse to conduct all marriages. He said, with reference to same-sex marriages:
    "I'm not going to be a party to it. ... I was raised in a Christian home and I was taught that it is a sin."
  • Covington County Probate Judge Ben Bowden said:

    "I have concluded that I have a duty to uphold Alabama law until a court with authority over me directs me otherwise. The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear and rule on a very similar case from another state this summer. I look forward to getting a definitive answer as soon as possible."

  • In addition, Probate judges in Autauga, Bibb, Cherokee, Clay, Coffee, Colbert, Conecuh, and Crenshaw and Escambia counties said they would issue licenses but would no longer perform marriage ceremonies. 5

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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. "Supreme Court won't intervene in Alabama same-sex marriage case," Daily KOS, 2015-FEB-06, at: http://www.dailykos.com/
  2. Emma Margolin, "Alabama heading for ‘constitutional crisis’ over marriage equality," MSNBC, 2015-FEB-06, at: http://www.msnbc.com/
  3. Kim Chandler, "Alabama Set to Become 37th State to Allow Gay Marriage," ABC News, 2015-FEB-07, at: http://abcnews.go.com/
  4. David Badash, "Crusading Alabama Judge Takes Entire County 'Out Of Marriage Licensing Business Altogether," The New Civil Rights Movement, 2015-FEB-06, at: http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/
  5. "4 Alabama judges refuse to perform same-sex weddings citing religious beliefs," Alabama Media Group, 2015-FEB-06, at: http://www.al.com/
  6. "List of LGBTQ-friendly Service Providers," One Alabama, 2015-JAN-26, at: http://onealabama.org/
  7. Cassie Fambro "Who is willing to marry gay couples? Here's a list by county," Alabama Media Group, 2015-FEB-05, at: http://www.al.com/
  8. Matt Pearce, "Top Alabama judge orders state to ignore federal gay marriage rulings," Los Angeles Times, 2015-FEB-08, at: http://www.latimes.com/
  9. Brian Lyman, "Roy Moore orders ban on same-sex marriage licenses," Montgomery Advertiser, 2015-FEB-08, at: http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/
  10. "Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore orders judges not to issue same-sex marriage licenses," Alabama Media Group, 2015-FEB-08, at: http://www.al.com/
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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2015-FEB-03
Latest update: 2015-FEB-09
Author: B.A. Robinson
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