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Ala. judges: no marriage licenses for gay couples

MOBILE, Ala. (BP) — A federal judge has declared Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, but a key state judicial organization contends probate judges are not bound by the decision.

U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade ruled Jan. 23 that the “Sanctity of Marriage Amendment” to Alabama’s constitution — which defines marriage as “inherently a unique relationship between a man and a woman” — violates the federal constitution. She also ruled that the state’s attorney general is prohibited from enforcing the marriage amendment.

However, the Alabama Probate Judges Association claims Granade’s ruling “only applies to the parties in the case and has no effect on anybody that is not a named party.”

Granade, who was nominated to the federal bench in 2001 by George W. Bush, issued a two-week stay of her ruling to give the state time to file an appeal with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Granade said she will issue an order addressing probate judges specifically before the stay expires Feb. 9, USA Today reported.

Probate judges are elected in all 67 counties in Alabama, according to the association, “and are statutorily given the responsibility of issuing and recording marriage licenses.”

The legal effect of Granade’s decision “is to allow one person in one same-sex marriage that was performed in another state to adopt their partner’s child,” Al Agricola, an attorney representing the probate judges association, said according to a news release from the association. “There is nothing in the judge’s order that requires probate judges in Alabama to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

The case triggering Granade’s ruling involved a lesbian couple who were legally married in California but denied adoption rights in Alabama when one of the women attempted to adopt the other’s biological son.

Greg Norris, president of the Alabama Probate Judges Association, said Granade’s ruling should not be construed as legalizing gay marriage statewide.

“As probate judges, our duty is to issue marriage licenses in accordance with Alabama law and that means we cannot legally issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” Norris, probate judge in Monroe County between Montgomery and Mobile, said. “The recent federal ruling does not change that.”

Though the association has advised its members not to issue licenses to same-sex couples, no judge will be penalized by the association for issuing a license after the two-week stay is lifted, Norris said according to USA Today.

Granade’s 10-page opinion argued that Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban “humiliates” children being raised by gay couples and “brings financial harm” to them.

“If anything, Alabama’s prohibition of same-sex marriage detracts from its goal of promoting optimal environments for children,” Granade wrote. “Those children currently being raised by same-sex parents in Alabama are just as worthy of protection and recognition by the State as are the children being raised by opposite-sex parents.”

Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama State Board of Missions, wrote in a blog post that Alabama Baptists “will continue to stand for marriage as defined by Scripture.”

“The biblical view of marriage as one man and one woman is the foundation for society,” Lance wrote. “This foundation is cracking and crumbling fast in the wake of judicial actions. As Alabama Baptists, we will pray for the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court with a landmark ruling expected on the matter within a few months.

“We also pray for other leaders in government and for those who disagree with us. We will pray for our churches as they continue standing strong in support of the biblical view of marriage,” Lance wrote.

In 2013, the Alabama Baptist Convention adopted a resolution declaring that a family can “begin only with the marriage of one man and one woman.”

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