Roll Tide: Majority of Alabama Counties Now Marrying Same-Sex Couples
After a federal judge ordered the county official responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Mobile, Ala., to begin issuing such licenses to same-sex couples on Thursday afternoon, a majority of the state's 67 counties followed suit.
As of 4 p.m. local time on Friday, 47 counties in Alabama were issuing marriage licenses to all couples, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which has been tracking the situation since U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade's pro-equality rulings took effect Monday. Those 47 counties contain 82 percent of the state's population, and by next week, a full 50 counties will allow same-sex couples to legally marry, reports HRC.
Shortly after judge Granade — the same federal district judge who found the state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional last month — issued her clarification Thursday, the windows at the Mobile Probate Judges' office opened, reports statewide LGBT group Equality Alabama. Robert Povilat and Milton Persinger, one of the couples who sued Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis after he denied them marriage licenses earlier this week, were the first same-sex couples to receive a marriage license in Mobile, according to the LGBT group.
But that's not the end of the story. HRC reports that 10 counties are still issuing marriage licenses to opposite-sex couples only, in defiance of Thursday's federal order clarifying that probate judges — who are responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Alabama — must serve all eligible couples equally, regardless of sex. Seven counties have opted to stop issuing marriage licenses altogether, rather than serve same-sex couples, HRC notes.
Probate judges in counties still refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples have generally pointed to guidance from Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who on Sunday told the public officials they were not bound by the federal court ruling establishing marriage equality in the Cotton State. Moore has become the face of the anti-equality movement in Alabama, telling a pair of Bloomberg reporters that he will never change his mind on the issue, and admitting to CNN that his opposition is not about the law, "it's about sexual orientation."
Moore is no stranger to defying federal law in service of his ultraconservative Christian beliefs. He was removed from office in 2003, after refusing to comply with a federal judge who ordered him to remove a giant statue of the 10 Commandments that sat in the middle of the state Supreme Courthouse. Voters returned Moore to the top judicial spot in 2012.
"We've seen a tremendous amount of progress since Monday and we're confident that we'll see more early next week," said HRC communications vice president Fred Sainz in a statement. "These numbers represent a seismic shift in favor of equality and justice. Resistance to happy, loving and committed same-sex couples getting married is quickly crumbling throughout the state."