United States Judge Ginny Granade has scheduled a hearing at 1 p.m., Feb. 12, for a contempt of court charge that could finally give the Mobile County Probate Court some direction about whether to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The contempt charge was added yesterday to Strawser v. Strange, a second case establishing the two Alabama amendments defining marriage as exclusively between “one man and one woman” violated the U.S. Constitution.
Similar to contempt charges Granade denied in Searcy v. Strange, Thursday’s hearing will focus on whether Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis’ decision to freeze the issuance of marriage licenses violated a court order requiring the probate office to abide by any ruling derived from the Searcy case.
As an original defendant in the lawsuit, Davis was dismissed from Searcy v. Strange with the understanding he would abide by whatever ruling Granade ultimately reached.
Davis has now been added as a defendant in the Strawser v. Strange case.
Because Searcy and her partner were already married in California in 2006, and James Strawser and his partner are still waiting to receive a marriage license from the Mobile County Probate Court, Attorney David Kennedy said their case would be a “more appropriate vehicle” to pursue a contempt charge against Davis.
Kennedy also said the outcome of Thursday’s hearing could likely resolve the issue Davis has had with conflicting orders from state and federal courts, confusion that began when Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore issued a last-minute order urging Alabama’s probate judges not to perform same-sex marriages in defiance of Granade’s ruling.
That order from Moore was filed at 8 p.m. the day before a 14-day stay Granade self-imposed on her ruling in Searcy v. Strange was set to expire. Though nine of Alabama’s 67 counties have issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples, others have refused and others, like Mobile County, have chosen to freeze the issuance of marriage licenses to all couples, regardless of sexual orientation.
Kennedy, one of the attorneys who represented Cari Searcy in the case that first overturned Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages, said the “lack of leadership” he’s seen from state officials struck him as odd.
“It took the probate court until late in the day to say what they were going to do,” Kennedy said in a statement to Lagniappe. “They kept everyone waiting far too long. Leadership is doing what the law says to do and some state judges showed leadership by respectfully complying with the federal order and saying why. The governor took a middling, non-committal position and the Chief Justice’s lack of leadership is obvious by his refusal to admit what is right in front of all of us. Alabama must assimilate into the new extension of American values and rights to same-sex couples and their families. In doing so, we become more American and more true to our core values of liberty, justice and equality for everyone.
The die is cast and the Chief Justice, Governor and Attorney General (Luther Strange) all missed an opportunity to lead instead of playing politics with tax paying, law abiding, family-loving fellow Alabamians lives. I hope that they do what they were all elected to do in the coming days — lead. Right now, I’m saddened to say I’m not optimistic that will happen.”
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