Federal Judge Callie Granade obliged Alabama Mobile county to issue same-sex marriage licenses on Thursday. The order acts also as a warning to probate judges across the state to start releasing same-sex marriage licenses.
Granade said judge Don Davies cannot deny couples a license based on the fact that the plaintiffs form a same-sex couple or because the sanctity of marriage prohibits it. The Federal Judge reinforces with Thursday’s order, her previous ruling from January in which she stated it was unconstitutional to ban gay marriages.
Thursday hearing was only dealing with the situation in Mobile county, the second most populated county in the state, although it was also a hint to the rest of counties that are still denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples, to start releasing them.
Granade’s ruling is the last turn in the controversial battle that is being held in Alabama regarding gay marriage, in which probate judges have been receiving conflicting orders from the Federal Court on one hand and the state’s Supreme Court on the other. At least 44 probate judges out of 67 in the state of Alabama are part of a joint revolt to not follow the Federal Court order.
At the moment only 23 counties are issuing marriage licenses to every couple, 18 of them are denying the licenses to homosexuals and 26 of them have closed the offices where such licenses are issued, according to Human Rights Campaign. Mobile county Probate Judge, Don Davis, is not issuing any marriage licenses at all, his attorney has said Davis has chosen to close the office rather than walking in a minefield of conflicting orders.
The state’s Chief Justice, Roy Moore, has described Callie Granade’s ruling in January as an illegal intrusion in the state’s sovereignty. It was in this atmosphere that Granade’s ruling came on Thursday urging Alabama county Mobile to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
Couples in Alabama can move from one county to another if they wish to marry and cannot do so in their own county. However, many organizations defending civil rights and the rights of homosexual people to get married, believe it is not acceptable that some probate judges are turning their backs on a higher authority ruling.
The Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Shannon Minter, declared Granade’s ruling is a clear guidance to probate judges, including Don Davis, regarding same-sex marriage in Alabama. She emphasized that couples in the state should have the freedom to marry independent of where they live.
American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama Director, Randall Marshall, has said they are ready to dispute this case in each county should it be necessary. He has also declared that they hope other probate judges will understand they can also become defendants in a lawsuit should they not treat everybody equally.
Last Monday, the US Supreme Court virtually backed Granade’s imposition of gay marriage in Alabama by assigning a full consideration of the case to nine justices, which will happen later this year. For now, the message from the Federal Judge is clear, Mobile county in Alabama must issue same-sex marriage licenses and other counties should follow the example.
By Vanessa Pouso
Photo by Jose Antonio Navas – Flickr License