Same-Sex Couples Marry in Alabama Despite State Chief Justice’s Order
Committed same-sex couples began marrying Monday in the deeply Christian and conservative Southern state of Alabama, despite an attempt by the state Supreme Court chief justice to thwart such unions.
At least eight of Alabama’s 67 counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday after a state-requested stay on US District Judge Callie V.S. Granade’s January 23 ruling expired.
In her ruling in Searcy v. Strange, Granade found that Alabama’s Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and Alabama Marriage Protection Act, both of which enjoy strong popular support, are unconstitutional because they violate the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment.
On Monday, the US Supreme Court refused to grant a stay request filed by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, who sought to postpone same-sex marriages until the nation’s highest court rules on their legality.
The Montgomery Advertiser reports Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who like Strange is openly anti-gay, ordered state probate court judges on Sunday to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Moore claims US district court rulings are not binding upon state courts, “but only serve as persuasive authority.”
Moore, who has publicly called for a Christian theocracy in the United States, was booted from office in 2003 after defying a federal order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the state judicial building. He was reinstalled by the state’s overwhelmingly Christian voters in 2012.
Numerous county judges are reportedly following Moore’s order to deny licenses to LGBT applicants. The Fort Payne Times-Journal reports DeKalb County Probate Judge Ronnie Osborn is accepting applications from same-sex couples but not issuing licenses. Osborn said disobeying Moore could cost him his job. But disobeying the federal ruling could result in contempt of court charges.
Officials in Fort Payne, the DeKalb County seat, apologized for the “inconvenience” caused by their refusal to comply with the law.
In neighboring Etowah county, officials were reportedly in the process of issuing two licenses to same-sex couples but were experiencing “printer problems.”
Reuters reports dozens of elated same-sex couples rushed to marry in Birmingham, the state’s largest city, where they were confronted with a small number of anti-gay protesters holding Bibles and crosses. But neither anti-gay protesters nor the threat of rain could dampen the spirits of those who have waited so long to enjoy the same rights as everyone else.
“I figured that we would be that last ones — I mean, they would drag Alabama kicking and screaming to equality,” Laura Bush, who married her partner of seven years Dee in a ceremony in a city park after obtaining her license, told the Associated Press.
“I remember California, when they were giving it, then it was taken away, and they gave it back,” Dee Bush added. With this in mind, the couple, who have five children together, decided to “get in there while we can and get it done… It’s great that we were able to be part of history.
“After all of these years, I can finally say this is my husband,” Eli Borges Wright, 28, who also married his partner of seven years, told Reuters.
In Huntsville, Eleanor Shue, who married her partner Jessica White, told AL.com she was “extremely happy and glad it’s finally legal.”
“At first we were heartbroken” after hearing Moore’s order, White said. “Then we realized he can’t do that. He does whatever he wants to do, we’re going to be here anyway.”
There was plenty of anger and disapproval throughout Alabama and around the nation on Monday as well. While some religious leaders in the state have expressed support for marriage equality, others are incensed.
“No court decision can change the truth,” Thomas J. Rodi, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Mobile, said following Judge Granade’s ruling. “The truth is marriage is between a man and a woman. People can choose to love and live with whomever they wish, but that does not make it a marriage.”
“I hope that the good people of Alabama reject [same-sex marriage] as they did when they voted against it with a 81 percent of the population,” Baptist pastor Wayne C. Cooper, who claims “thousands” of gay men enjoy eating each other’s feces, commented to the Advertiser.
“Marriage is between a man and a woman, period,” added Cooper. “Two men doing horrible things to each other in the name of ‘love’ is insane! The male and female bodies are designed for each other. Let’s stop with the perversion and barbaric behavior.”
“Thank you God for the printer problem,” quipped Gadsden Times reader Regina Stovers-Hillis in Etowah County.
LGBT marriage equality has now been achieved in 37 of the nation’s 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and a handful of Native American tribes. Last month, the US Supreme Court announced it would hear same-sex marriage cases from four of the states which fall under the jurisdiction of the only federal appeals court to have upheld a state same-sex marriage ban to date.