Alabama became the 37th state where same-sex couples can legally marry on Monday, but many of the state’s 67 counties did not issue marriage licenses despite a ruling by a federal judge.
As of Tuesday, probate judges in only 16 counties said they would issue same-sex marriage licenses. In several counties, probate judges stopped issuing marriage licenses all together, while some just issued licenses to only heterosexual couples.
On January 23, U.S. District Judge Callie Granade ruled that Alabama’s bans on same-sex marriages were unconstitutional but she agreed to place a hold on her order until Monday to allow state officials time to appeal and make adequate preparations.
Last week, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to extend the stay and on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court did the same.
Late Sunday evening, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore issued an order prohibiting Alabama’s probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
“Effective immediately, no probate judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama probate judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent with…the Alabama Constitution,” the order reads.
Many probate judges in the state decided to follow Moore’s orders rather than the federal court’s ruling.
Chambers County Probate Judge Brandy Easlick was one of those judges.
“In light of Judge Moore’s order and because of my religious beliefs, I will not be issuing same-sex marriage licenses,” Judge Easlick said. “Unless I’m mandated by a court with jurisdiction over me I will not issue same-sex licenses.”
Easlick said that her office did not issue any licenses on Monday, while she sought the opinion of the County Attorney. But going forward, she said that her office would only issue licenses to heterosexual couples.
She added that the probate office stopped performing all marriage ceremonies on February 1.
The professional association of Alabama’s probate judges originally had taken the position that Judge Granade’s ruling only applied to the two women that brought the suit. However, Granade later clarified the ruling making it clear that it applied statewide. The Probate Judges Association then agreed to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Sunday night’s order by Judge Moore added a great deal of confusion as to how probate judges across the state were to proceed.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama said yesterday that those judges that do not issue same-sex marriage licenses could face lawsuits for refusing. Because of Moore’s order some probate judges have said they will issue no marriage licenses at all until they receive further clarification.
Attorney General Luther Strange issues a statement on the Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday. “I regret the Supreme Court’s decision not to stay the federal district court’s ruling until the high court finally settles the issue this summer,” he said. “In the absence of a stay, there will likely be more confusion in the coming months leading up to the Supreme Court’s anticipated ruling on the legality of same-sex marriage.”
Last week, the Alabama Department of Public Health issued revised marriage license forms. The revised form has two spaces that are labeled as spouse, instead of separate listings for bride and groom. There is also a box listing gender of each spouse.
The counties that did issue same-sex marriage licenses on Monday were Jefferson, Montgomery and Madison Counties. Officials in Limestone, Lawrence, Morgan, Winston Perry, Dallas, Monroe, Etowah, Wilcox, Butler, Autauga, Elmore, Lowndes, Coffee, Geneva and Bullock Counties said they would issue marriage licenses to all couples, gay or straight.
AL.com posted a list of people willing to marry gay couples last week. As of Tuesday, no one in Chambers County was on the list. The closest to Chambers County was Dr. Katharyn M. Privett-Duren in Lee County. There are several in Montgomery County.