MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Christian Examiner) – The Alabama Supreme Court denied a challenge by a lone probate judge who applied for an extension to the state court's March 3 order barring its 68 probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis sought to side-step a March 3 order by the Alabama State Supreme Court, claiming a federal court order issued March 5 in the case of Strawser v. Strange, a civil action, bound him to continue to issue the licenses.
The Alabama Supreme Court said his request was without merit and he has no obligation "beyond the four couples who were the plaintiffs in the case and who already have received the relief they requested," the justices wrote in their decision.
The court's decision was 7-1 with Justice Greg Shaw dissenting, according to a report by WFSA Channel 12. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, abstained from the ruling.
The controversy swirled around the decision March 3 by the Alabama Supreme Court to halt the issuance of licenses to same-sex couples came in response to an emergency petition filed by the Baptist-run Alabama Citizens Action Program and joined by the Alabama Policy Institute as well as John E. Enslen, in his official capacity as Judge of Probate for Elmore County.
The state court in that instance found that "Alabama's probate judges have a ministerial duty to follow Alabama law limiting marriage to a union of one man and one woman," saying also that for "the entirety of its history, Alabama has chosen the traditional definition of marriage."
The state court finding was in direct contravention of U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade who on Jan. 22 struck down Alabama's voter-approved (81 percent) "Sanctity of Marriage" constitutional amendment prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriages or civil unions. It also defies her subsequent order on Feb. 12 ordering Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis to issue marriage licenses to four same-sex couples, despite guidance from State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore that no probate judge should do so.
Granade, in her original ruling, wrote that marriage laws in Alabama "are an irrational way of promoting biological relationships in Alabama."
The Alabama Supreme Court, however, relied on historical findings by the U.S. Supreme Court that no law could be "more wholesome and necessary in the founding of a free, self-governing commonwealth" than that "which seeks to establish it on the basis of the idea of the family" consisting of a union for life "of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony."
[With reporting by Will Hall.]