On a day where sadness, confusion and joy blended, same-sex couples went to get marriage licenses Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court denied the state’s request to stop them.
Some were successful. Others found themselves caught in a legal fight between the federal courts and Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who ordered probate judges Sunday not to issue licenses in defiance of a federal judge’s ruling that struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.
Judge Alan King of Jefferson County Probate Court in Birmingham issued the first license to two women, making Alabama the 37th state where gays legally can wed. He then proceeded to issue several more licenses.
“It is great that we were able to be part of history,” said Dee Bush, who has been with her partner, Laura Bush, for seven years. They have five children between them.
After receiving her license, she and her partner walked outside to a park where a minister was performing wedding ceremonies to cheers from crowds.
But not all counties went along with King, instead citing Moore’s letter, which Gov. Robert Bentley declined Monday to enforce.
The outspoken social conservative told county judges that a federal judge’s decision striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was not binding on state courts and that it had caused “confusion” in the state.
Probate Judge Al Booth in Autauga County said his office will take applications for same sex marriages but won’t issue licenses until he gets clarification.
“I have the man who runs this state’s court system telling me not to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples,” Booth said. “I have the federal judiciary telling me I will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“I want to uphold my oath. But what law do I follow?” he said. “Which constitution do I uphold?”
Probate judges in at least a half dozen other counties have said they won’t issue marriage licenses to gay couples: Covington County, whose county seat is Andalusia; Elmore County and Wetumpka; Marengo County and Linden; Morgan County and Decatur; Pike County and Troy; and Washington County and Chatom.
Lawyers for Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, one of the Mobile, Ala., couples who successfully challenged the state’s same-sex marriage ban, filed a contempt motion against Mobile County’s probate judge, Don Davis, after his office refused to issue licenses to the couple. U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade, who struck down the state’s ban in two separate rulings in late January, had not ruled on the motion as of early Monday afternoon.
At least eight counties representing about 40% of the state’s population are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center. Alabama has 67 counties.
Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU’s Alabama chapter, said her group is monitoring the situation.
“I would really think long and hard before defying a federal court order,” she said.
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SOURCE: USA Today
Brian Lyman, The Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser