As of noon today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) was unable to confirm any of Alabama’s 67 counties issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, one day after an order from the Alabama Supreme Court some believe is in defiance of federal authority.
The turnaround resulted from an emergency petition to the Alabama Supreme Court by the Alabama Policy Institute and Alabama Citizens Action Program, which sought to stop probate judges from issuing marriage licenses.Some counties have been providing the licenses since Feb. 9, when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to intervene in a case overturning the state’s ban.
Before the writ of mandamus was issued late yesterday afternoon, 48 of 67 counties were following the order of U.S. District Court Judge Ginny Granade, who issued a ruling Jan. 23 in Searcy v. Strange that effectively overturned the state’s longstanding ban on same-sex marriages.
Today, in Mobile County, the marriage license windows remained closed to heterosexual couples as well. It’s been reported Baldwin County’s Probate Court is only issuing licenses to couples of the opposite sex, but is still allowing same-sex couples to begin the applications process.
Since the Alabama’s “Sanctity of Marriage Laws” were declared by Granade to be unconstitutional, several in Alabama’s legislative and judicial government offices have verbally and legally challenged the right of any court, other than SCOTUS, to overturn laws established in Alabama’s state constitution.
Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis was especially highlighted in yesterday’s order, as he was told by Granade directly not to prevent the issuance of same-sex marriages or the recognition of previously performed marriages between same-sex couples.
That order was handed down by Granade on Feb. 12 in the case of Strawser v. Strange, after plaintiffs in the case complained Davis’ office was preventing marriage licenses for all couples beginning Feb. 9.
David Kennedy, one of the two attorneys that brought the original lawsuit against the state, said any probate judge who refuses to issue licenses could face “potential liability for not following a federal order.”
“It’s important to remember these judges aren’t just running afoul of Judge Granade’s order, they’re also running afoul of the Supreme Court of United States,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy wouldn’t get into what options for resource the federal government may have available, but he did say “when state law and federal law contradict, federal law wins.”
As the confusion continues, many opponents of same-sex marriage have rejoiced over the state’s decision today, but the staff at HRC has unsurprisingly condemned the actions of the Alabama’s highest court.
“Because of the Alabama Supreme Court’s willingness to ignore their oath of office, all Alabama’s counties appear to be in conflict with the intent of a federal court order,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “This is only a temporary setback on the road to equality, but the message it sends to LGBT Alabamians is despicable.”
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has made national headlines for his efforts to delay the implementation of same-sex marriages in the state. He’s also campaigned vocally against such marriages for several years.
In the most recent decisions however, Moore recused himself from considering the issue, and only Justice Greg Shaw issued a dissenting opinion in yesterday’s writ of mandamus.