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Religious Tolerance logo

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

Part 14: Alabama: 2015-FEB-09: U.S. Supreme
Court refuses to extend stay. Alabama
became the 38th state with marriage equality.
Some couples had to drive to another county.
Pastor disagrees with marriage equality.

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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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38 Monday 2015-FEB-09: U.S. Supreme Court denies Alabama's application for a stay:

U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade had issued her rulings in two same-sex marriage cases during late January. She decided that the same-sex marriage bans in the Alabama Constitution and in the Alabama marriage statute are unconstitutional and void. Her reasoning was that they had violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. On the order of 40 other federal District Courts had issued a similar ruling since mid-2013 in other states. She stayed her ruling until FEB-09 to prevent same-sex couples from marrying until the state had an opportunity to appeal her decision to a higher court.

The state had asked her to extend her stay until mid-2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue its final country-wide ruling on such marriages. She denied the request, citing the irreparable damage that this would do to same-sex couples for each day they were not allowed to marry. They would not be able to have the protections, benefits, and status associated with marriage.

The state then asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to extend the stay. The Circuit Court denied that request as well.

The state finally asked Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court to extend the stay. Justice Thomas is the person to whom emergency motions from Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, are sent. About 9:30 ET on FEB-09, a few hours after the stay had expired, he responded:

"The application for stay presented to JUSTICE THOMAS and by him referred to the Court is denied."

Of the nine Justices on the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia were listed in the ruling as having voted in favor of extending the stay until the court renders its decision in a consolidated case involving same-sex marriage cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. There may have been additional Justices who agreed, but preferred to remain anonymous. What is known is that the majority of Justices voted to let the stay expire on FEB-09. 1

Alabama became the 38th state to attain marriage equality. Only a small minority of states -- 12 in all, where less than 30% of the American population lives -- still ban same-sex marriage.

Also on FEB-09, the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times published an editorial titled: "Misjudgment in Alabama on same-sex marriage." It concluded:

"Supporters of a right to same-sex marriage were cheered Monday when the justices refused to stay the ruling overturning Alabama's ban. Encouraging as such a signal may be, it is no substitute for the sort of conclusive ruling that will make it impossible for the Roy Moores of the world to stall the march toward marriage equality. May it come soon." 2

Probate judges in Alabama then had no obvious legal justification to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However, they do have a significant personal justification: Theirs is an elected post. With public opposition to marriage equality at about 70%, if they were to obey the District Court ruling and treat same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples equally, they might suffer a major backlash from voters in the future, and find themselves voted out of office.

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LGBT symbol 2015-FEB-09: Many Probate Justices ignore order by the Chief Justice Moore. Same-sex couples obtain marriage licenses in some counties:

On Monday morning, FEB-09, when the courthouses opened for business, many probate judges had decided to follow their oath of office in which they promised to follow the federal Constitution. They defied the order by Chief Justice Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court. They began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In some counties, the couples were married in the courthouse just after they received their license. As couples lined up at the door, the U.S. Supreme Court issued their ruling. It rejected the request by Alabama's Attorney General, Luther Strange to extend the stay of the U.S. District Court's ruling. Same-sex couples were now free to marry.

Dinah McCaryer and Olanda Smith were the first couple in Jefferson County to marry. They have been together for seven years. Judge Michael G. Graffeo of Alabama Circuit Court officiated. He concluded the marriage ceremony with the words:

"By the authority vested in me as a circuit judge of the State of Alabama, I now pronounce Olanda and Dinah are married spouses, entitled to all rights and privileges, as well as all responsibilities, afforded and placed upon them by the State of Alabama. You can show your affection." 3

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2015-FEB-09: Two men had to drive for two-hours round trip to obtain a license and marry in their home county:

A male couple, Justin Lewis, 28 and Shawn Williams, 29 were raised in conservative states and in conservative Christian homes. Lewis discovered that he was gay about the time that he reached puberty. He would pretend to have crushes on female fellow students while he was in high school in order to not raise concerns about his sexual orientation among his immediate family. Williams appears to have a bisexual orientation. He had a series of short-term relationships with women before he met Lewis.

Lewis and Williams have lived together for over six years. On the morning of FEB-09. they attempted to obtain a marriage license in Lee County where they live. However, Probate Judge Bill English told them that he was not issuing licenses to same-sex couples. A man waiting in the lineup indicated his support for Judge English's decision, saying:

"God has given us a set of laws to live by."

Williams turned to face the man and asked if his coat was made of blended fabric. If so, that would have been a violation of an Old Testament prohibition against wearing clothes made up of two types of fabrics:

In the King James Version of the Bible, Leviticus 19:19 states: "... thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee."

A bailiff interrupted the conversation before it became too heated.

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The couple found out that Montgomery County was issuing licenses to same-sex couples. They drove an hour to get there and sensed a very different mood. Eliott C. McLaughlin, writing for CNN, said:

"The road in front of the courthouse was blocked off, police wore rainbows on their lapels. ... Same-sex marriage supporters cheered and handed out cupcakes and beaded bracelets as couples emerged with their licenses."

The bracelets were probably in honor of the next day being Mardi Gras.

The couple then drove back to Lee County. Miller said:

"It's our home. It's where we live. It's where our friends are. It's where we've built our life together."

At the Lee County courthouse where they had earlier been denied a license, the were surrounded by strangers who showed up at the courthouse to support couples who were getting married, many of whom had no friends or family present. Angela Farmer, a Neopagan officiant -- probably a Wiccan -- offered to marry them. Williams, referring to the supportive crowd. said:

"They would've just been standing there with their good intentions. We wanted them to be a part of it. To be honest, I wouldn't have had it any other way. ... It's good that the state recognizes it now. The sheet of paper's nice, but we didn't need it to validate our love." 4

Pastor David Floyd, of Marvyn Parkway Baptist Church, had a decidedly different attitude towards same-sex marriages. He said:

"We find that when two men or two women try to create a union, which they cannot do anyway, as a married couple, that is an abomination in the sight of God. Leviticus 18:22 tells us that. Romans 1 says that it is an unseemly practice, says that it’s an unclean practice and says it’s the evidence of a reprobate mind. You’ll find that Sodom and Gomorra was destroyed for the sin of sodomy. And so therefore, we need to stand in this hour so that our country will not go down the same route."

Williams said:

"The same people who are against same-sex marriage are the same people who were against interracial marriage 50-60 years ago and even longer that. ... One day [same-sex marriage is] ... going to be nation-wide, sooner rather than later. Then everybody who wants to get married will have the opportunity to." 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. Justice J. Thomas, "No. 14A840 'On application for stay'," U.S. Supreme Court, 2015-FEB-09, at: http://www.supremecourt.gov/
  2. Times Editorial Board, "Misjudgment in Alabama on same-sex marriage," Los Angeles Times, 2015-FEB-09, at: http://www.latimes.com/
  3. "Alabama Marriages Move Forward, No Stay From SCOTUS," Between the Lines News, 2015-FEB-09, at: http://www.pridesource.com/
  4. Eliott C. McLaughlin, "Past and present clash over same-sex marriage in Deep South," CNN News, 2015-FEB-20, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  5. Jim Little, "Same-sex couple weds outside of Lee County Courthouse, The Plainsman, 2015-FEB-09, at: http://www.theplainsman.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-FEB-09
Latest update: 2015-FEB-22
Author: B.A. Robinson
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