Federal Judge Orders AL County to Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

As expected, the federal judge who struck down Alabama’s law banning same-sex marriage has now ordered a county probate judge to issue those licenses. But the order so far only applies to Mobile County, where the judge simply shut down the department that issues marriage licenses rather than issue them to gay couples.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade’s order sought to clarify that Mobile County Probate Court Judge Don Davis should follow her directive in spite of a contravening order from Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore that led many state judges to refrain from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

The ruling marked the latest twist in the controversy over gay marriage in Alabama, where probate judges have faced conflicting orders from federal and state courts. The resulting disarray has allowed some same-sex couples to marry in places such as Birmingham, while those applying for marriage licenses in dozens of counties were turned away.

Granade’s order applied specifically to Mobile County, where, within an hour of the ruling, same-sex couples who had been waiting in line at a county building began to receive licenses. It was not immediately clear whether judges in the other 43 of Alabama’s 67 counties that have refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples would reverse course.

Attorneys for four same-sex couples named as plaintiffs in the suit had urged Granade to issue a broad ruling to compel all judges in the state to begin granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

There are still pending court actions in other counties to compel probate judges to comply with the court order. I’m surprised that the judge didn’t issue a broader ruling, but it may be because there were no motions in front of her to do that. But if the plaintiffs argued for that result, I don’t see why the judge wouldn’t do so given that more than 40 other counties are also refusing to comply with her ruling.

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  • Sastra

    … Mobile County, where, within an hour of the ruling, same-sex couples who had been waiting in line at a county building began to receive licenses.

    This is always a difficult part for me. I can understand someone sitting back in their own comfortable cocoon and stating that, as a matter of principle, they are against gay marriage. But you are someone who issues marriage licenses and you presumably enjoy that part of your job — seeing the happy faces, the expressions of hope, the little scenes of triumph or joy or perhaps resignation. And now there is a line. It is filled with real people, couples right there in front of you, eager and excited to make a permanent commitment, to form a family, to get that precious piece of paper that you are not only powered by privileged to give and — nothing. Somehow you find your cocoon, wrap it around yourself, sit back, and refuse.

    I hope the clerks felt some relief over the court order, regardless of their religious beliefs.

  • ebotebo

    Fuck their religious beliefs!

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

    Sastra, what about the employees Freedom of Conscience? Their Freedom of Religion? Look, as an Alabama state enmarriagifier, I resent your attempt to restrict my Freedom of Conscience (my conscience being so free that I don’t have one) and my Freedom of Religion (which requires me to treat groups that I fear and loathe like shit).

    I work for the American taxpayer, under American Law, except when I disagree with the taxpayer or the law.

    And just because my argument is the exact opposite of this when it comes to The Gays’ so-called “Civil Rights” just proves that I’m so right that I don’t even have to be consistent!

  • John Pieret

    I’m surprised that the judge didn’t issue a broader ruling, but it may be because there were no motions in front of her to do that

    The problem is that the Mobile County Probate Court Judge was the only one who was a party to the action where the injunction was granted and he was only added in the last couple of days. But the order has had its intended effect. At the time of the hearing yesterday afternoon only 23 of 67 counties were issuing same-sex marriage licenses, with most of the others not issuing licenses to any one. As of noon today, 41 are issuing licenses to gays and straights alike. Others have said they’ll comply early next week.

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

    It does look like a few recalcitrant judges will have to be joined to the suit and threatened with contempt. If they continue to hold out after that, it could get interesting.

  • D. C. Sessions

    I’m surprised that the judge didn’t issue a broader ruling, but it may be because there were no motions in front of her to do that.

    Not being a party to the “case or controversy” before her, she didn’t have jurisdiction over them.

  • iangould

    What happened to that Judge who refused to issue a license for an interracial marriage?

  • John Pieret

    What happened to that Judge who refused to issue a license for an interracial marriage?

    Basically nothing, except having scorn rained on him by the Supreme Court which, for a lawyer, can be painful. He didn’t violate any existing court order and was applying the then current law of Virginia.

  • John Pieret

    Oops, I thought you were referring to the judge in Loving v. Virginia but rereading it, I realized I may have misinterpreted. Was there a more recent case where an interracial couple was denied a license?

  • iangould

    It was within the past couple of years. I think it was in Georgia or South Carolina.

    A judge refused to issue a marriage license for an interracial couple. His clerk was later recorded on the phone telling the couple words to the effect that “we don’t do that here. you’ll have to go to another county.”

    It made the news at the time but I can’t find a reference now.

  • John Pieret

    iangould:

    A judge refused to issue a marriage license for an interracial couple. His clerk was later recorded on the phone telling the couple words to the effect that “we don’t do that here. you’ll have to go to another county.”

    The usual procedure then would be to go to (most likely) Federal court, seek an injunction to force the judge/clerk to issue the license and seek the plaintiffs’ legal fees as damages, which would, almost certainly, be granted. If the judge/clerk persisted in refusing the license, contempt proceedings and sanctions (fines and, in egregious cases, jail time) could occur.

  • John Pieret

    My Google-fu is strong tonight. I think this is probably the case you’re thinking of:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Louisiana_interracial_marriage_incident

    It was in Louisiana and it ended in the plaintiffs dropping the suit (my lawyer’s super sense detects a settlement).

  • John Pieret

    In 2009, a Louisiana Justice of the Peace refused to sign a marriage license (i.e. perform a wedding) of an interracial couple.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Louisiana_interracial_marriage_incident

    Imagine Mel Gibson* in Brave Heart, being drawn and quartered yelling “FREEDOM”!

    _________________________________________________________________________

    * All things considered, Mel might be an apt illustration for this wingnut meme.