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.