The County-by-County Marriage Mess in Alabama

On Sunday night, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore issued a memo saying county judges can ignore a federal court ruling allowing gay couples to marry, but he can’t enforce that order. Who can? The governor, who says he won’t. But on Monday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a stay of the ruling. So now there’s a big mess as county judges have to choose between following the state courts or the federal courts.

Probate judges in various counties have indicated that they will in some way circumvent same-sex marriage licenses. For example, Marengo County Probate Judge Laurie Hall has said that her office will still make marriage licenses available, but she will no longer sign them for any couple. Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen has similarly taken his office “out of the marriage licensing business altogether,” citing state law that indicates that judges “may” issue marriage licenses — but don’t have to. Clarke County Probate Judge Valerie Davis has taken the same step, while judges in Covington County and Washington County will continue to discriminate against same-sex couples per the unconstitutional state law.

If any judges were on the fence about whether to issue licenses, they may find a reason not to in the “administrative order” issued by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore last night. Moore, who has a history of bucking federal court orders, simply declared that probate judges do not have to abide the federal order.

This may not, however, be the best legal advice. Though the Alabama Probate Judges Association originally found reason to avoid issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, two follow-up orders from Granade changed the scope of her original ruling. In a separate case about a couple seeking to marry in-state as opposed to just having their out-of-state marriage recognized, she issued an injunction that bound any state officer tasked with enforcing the state’s ban. She also issued a clarification of her original ruling and, borrowing a strategyfrom District Judge Robert Hinkle in Florida, pointed out that even if her injunction does not require probate judges to issue licenses, the Constitution does. Thus, any probate judge who continues to violate a same-sex couple’s constitutional rights could be held legally liable with a new complaint. This would not be the first time that Alabama probate judges have ignored a federal ruling about who they should issue licenses to. The ACLU has set up a hotlinethat same-sex couples can call if they are refused a license, while the anti-LGBT Liberty Counsel has already announced it will defend probate judges in such cases.

What a mess. And all for the purpose of denying equality to gay couples. Just like every past civil rights struggles, the enemies of equality and fairness will do anything they can to deny equal rights to those they despise.

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  • eric

    Marengo County Probate Judge Laurie Hall has said that her office will still make marriage licenses available, but she will no longer sign them for any couple. Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen has similarly taken his office “out of the marriage licensing business altogether,” citing state law that indicates that judges “may” issue marriage licenses — but don’t have to.

    Is the judge’s signature a legal requirement for a bona fide marriage, or just a ceremonial thing? IOW, are the unsigned marriage licences legal marriages or not?

    If they are, then frankly, use this (brought to you by bigots) opportunity to cut some of the unnecessary administrivia out of the marriage licensing business altogether. Let’s get rid of as many unnecessary steps as possible.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    The County-by-County Marriage Mess

    Also the 1971 sequel to 1969’s Paint Your Wagon. True story.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    On Sunday night, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore issued a memo …

    Sabbath-violator! Ma, get me my flingin’ stones!

  • cottonnero

    Moore’s position has all the dignity and likelihood of success of a kindergartener trying to extend his own bedtime. Before long, only a tantrum will delay the inevitable, and then only for a little bit.

  • moarscienceplz

    I think it’s time ol’ Roy and his rock be united in holy bliss, a la the Monty Python 16-ton weight.

  • screechymonkey

    Just like every past civil rights struggles, the enemies of equality and fairness will do anything they can to deny equal rights to those they despise.

    Yep. Right down to the “well, if we can’t discriminate, we’ll just shut it down entirely” ploy. I seem to recall that many southern communities, when told they couldn’t have whites-only swimming pools, decided to shut down the pools altogether rather than integrate.

    It’s ironic that the true threat to “traditional” marriage in Alabama is bigots refusing to issue any marriage permits.

  • John Pieret

    The good news is that more counties are coming around and they are clustered around the largest cities — Huntsville, Montgomery and Birmingham — and form a spine down the middle of the state almost continuously from the Tennessee to the Florida borders. Given that same sex couples probably reside more in urban areas than rural ones, it likely that the majority of people wanting to get a license do not have to travel far.

    http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2015/02/see_if_your_county_is_issuing.html#incart_most-read_news_article

    It’s still a mess and will be an embarrassment to (at least some) Alabamans in the future.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    screechymonkey “I seem to recall that many southern communities, when told they couldn’t have whites-only swimming pools, decided to shut down the pools altogether rather than integrate.”

    To be fair, it’s like when you put a new red towel in the washing machine with the whites, except that the room has suddenly gone completely silent and everybody’s staring at me.

  • MikeMa

    RawStory has a post about a judge who had an ordained minister arrested for offering to perform a wedding for a same sex couple after he refused. Alabama Judge Al Booth is in deep bigot mode.

  • marcus

    John Pieret @ 7 Yes, you are correct. You’ll also note that there are also two outliers east and west. The counties following the law make a cross in the middle of the state.

    Coincidence? I don’t think so!

  • marcus

    Moderation? Really?

  • screechymonkey

    MikeMa @9.

    a judge who had an ordained minister arrested

    Aha! You see! Gay marriage leads to religious oppression! They’re rounding up poor innocent Christians who are following their consciences by refusing to perform…

    for offering to perform a wedding for a same sex couple

    Oops. Never mind!

  • cptdoom

    Apparently Moore also threatened to bring charges against any judge issuing licenses to same-sex couples, via a Facebook post that’s since been deleted. He really is a primo piece of fecal matter, isn’t he?

  • U Frood

    Well it’s a good thing Moore made his order to prevent any confusion!

  • marcus

    cptdoom @ 13 “He really is a primo piece of fecal matter, isn’t he?”

    Yes he is! The best part is that he just demonstrated that fact to the whole damned country.

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy!

  • Al Dente

    After the federal judges slap the probate judges, Moore will stamp his feet and yell REALLY LOUDLY!

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    In other news Clarabelle Thomas is massively butthurt about this whole thing.

  • whheydt

    Re: Al Dente @ #16…

    After which the federal judge will slam Moore upside of the head with a clue-by-4.

  • tbrandt

    Re democommie @#17:

    When did reactionary bigotry become a feminine trait?

  • John Pieret

    tbrandt:

    I suspect that democommie was thinking of Clarabell the Clown from the Howdy Doody Show (which only people of a certain age might remember) and misspelled it by adding an “e” at end, which is an understandable mistake.

  • matty1

    He threatened to charge judges via Facebook? That’s taking social media to a new level

  • Anri

    Anyone wanna ask Alabama how Nullification went for them the last time they tried it?

  • eric

    Last time it ended with Atlanta burning. They’re afraid this time it will end with Birmingham flaming.

  • llewelly

    Now a Mississippi Klan faction is joining in:

    “The Mississippi Klan salutes Alabama’s chief justice Roy Moore, for refusing to bow to the yoke of Federal tyranny,” Brent Waller, the UDKW’s imperial wizard, wrote in a Stormfront post. “The fudge packers from Hollywood and all major news networks are in shock that the good people from the heart of Dixie are resisting their Imperialist, Communist Homosexual agenda!”

    http://splcenter.org/blog/2015/02/10/klan-group-issues-call-to-arms-over-alabama-same-sex-marriage-ruling/

  • brucegee1962

    Wait —- so for years and years, these fundies have been saying “If you let gays marry, then traditional marriage will be destroyed!”

    Why didn’t we ever really that they were just running a protection scam? All along, what were really saying about marriage was “Nice institution you’ve got yourself here. Shaaaaame if something bad should happen to it” with a bad Bronx accent.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    @19:

    Per Mr. Pierett, I was referring to the clown.

    I’ve known women named “Clara” and women named “Belle”. Never knew anyone named “Clarabelle”, ceptin’ the clown whose name I misspelled. I blame “Hooked on phonix”.

    To be clear; Clarence Thomas is a fucking moron.