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Ala. judges may issue gay marriage licenses

MOBILE, Ala. (BP) — A key judicial organization in Alabama said Wednesday (Jan. 28) that it believes a federal judge’s ruling striking down the state’s gay marriage ban could soon require probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Following U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade’s Jan. 23 ruling that the “Sanctity of Marriage Amendment” to Alabama’s constitution violates the federal constitution, the Alabama Probate Judges Association issued a statement claiming the ruling only applied to “parties in the case” and did not require its members to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

But a clarification issued by Granade Jan. 28 led the judges’ organization to change its mind. President Greg Norris said in a statement that the association now believes its members could be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples Feb. 9, when a stay of Granade’s ruling to allow time for an appeal expires.

“It is the opinion of the association, on the advice of legal counsel, that until the stay is lifted, probate judges cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” Norris, probate judge in Monroe County between Montgomery and Mobile, said. “However, on the occasion that the stay is lifted, same-sex couples may apply for marriage licenses.”

Granade’s clarification recounted the Alabama Probate Judges Association’s initial denial that judges would be required to sanction homosexual marriages and then noted, “Because the court has entered a stay of the Judgment in this case, neither the named Defendant [Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange], nor the Probate Courts in Alabama are currently required to follow or uphold the Judgment.

“However, if the stay is lifted, the Judgment in this case makes it clear that the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act “are unconstitutional because they violate the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Granade wrote.

In related news, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore sent a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley Jan. 27 stating that Moore would “continue to recognize the Alabama Constitution and the will of the people overwhelmingly expressed in the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.” Moore added that “nothing in the United States Constitution grants the federal government the authority to redefine the institution of marriage,” according to a report on al.com.

Moore noted at the end of his letter to Bentley, “I ask you to continue to uphold and support the Alabama Constitution with respect to marriage, both for the welfare of this state and for our posterity. Be advised that I stand with you to stop judicial tyranny and any unlawful opinions issued without constitutional authority.”

Bentley issued a statement expressing his support of the marriage amendment.

“The people of Alabama voted in a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between man and woman,” Bentley said. “As governor, I must uphold the Constitution. I am disappointed in Friday’s ruling, and I will continue to oppose this ruling. The Federal government must not infringe on the rights of states.”

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