Some Alabama judges choose state law over federal rulings, deny same-sex couples marriage licenses

by Staff |

((FILE) Alabama Supreme Court)The Supreme Court of Alabama is the highest state court and has both judicial and administrative responsibilities, including rules governing administration, practice, and procedure in all state courts. It has authority to review decisions rendered by the other courts of the state, and, to determine certain legal matters over which no other court has jurisdiction and to issue such orders necessary to carry out its general superintendence over the courts in Alabama.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — After a federal judge overruled Alabama voters Jan. 23, the state became the 37th in which same-sex marriage is legal, with marriage licenses being issued Monday. State Supreme Justice Roy S. Moore instructed probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, though not all of them have complied, according to reports.

"Effective immediately, no Probate Judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama Probate Judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent" with the state's constitution, he wrote in an order late Sunday night. According to Section 30-1-19 of the state code, "marriage is inherently a unique relationship between a man and a woman."

Tuscaloosa, Shelby, Marshall, Pike and Houston have followed Moore's instructions, declining to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"We will be issuing traditional marriage licenses," Tuscaloosa County chief probate clerk Lisa Whitehead told CNN.

"My staff and I are honored to serve the residents of Pike County," a sign read this morning in Troy, Ala. Another read "marriage licenses are not being issued at this time at the Pike County Probate office."

Other judges are not following Moore's directive. Montgomery, Madison and Jefferson counties have issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"I was shocked" to read Moore's order, said Probate Judge Alan King of Jefferson County, the state's most populous. He compared the State Supreme Justice to George Wallace, the racist Alabama governor who infamously opposed the desegregation of all-white schools in 1963 and oversaw the brutalization of African-Americans during the Civil Rights era.

"I am a rule-oriented person," King told CNN. "We have to have rules and laws as part of an orderly society."

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide the ultimate fate of same-sex marriage in the U.S. in June. Because a decision is only a few short months away, they have refused to intervene in Alabama.

Same-sex marriage in Alabama became a federal issue because of Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, who were legally married in California. Searcy attempted to adopt McKeand's 9-year-old daughter, but the state denied her petition because the state didn't recognize their marriage.

In 2006, 81 percent of more than 850,000 Alabama residents voted for traditional marriage by approving the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment which defined marriage as between one man and one woman.