Alabama Supreme Court Order Does Not Allow Judges To Refuse Marriage Licenses To Same-Sex Couples, Civil Liberties Groups Say
Alabama’s probate judges are under an immediate obligation to issue marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples, say the four civil-rights organizations that are representing same-sex couples in the state.
Pursuant to a May 21 order by Judge Callie V.S Granade in Strawser v. Strange, probate judges became obligated to obey the U.S. Constitution and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on the date that “the Supreme Court issues its ruling” in Obergefell v. Hodges. The ruling in Obergefell was issued on June 26, so Judge Granade’s injunction is now in effect.
Some press reports and individuals have misinterpreted a recent order of the Alabama Supreme Court, and statements by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, to suggest that probate judges need not comply with Judge Granade’s injunction until the expiration of a 25-day rehearing period for U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Those reports are inaccurate both because Judge Granade’s order went into effect immediately on June 26, and because the Supreme Court’s decision became the law of the land on the day it was issued. Indeed, in a statement, Moore said the order only calls for motions or briefs "addressing the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges,” adding, “In no way does the order instruct probate judges of this State as to whether or not they should comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell.”
The Association of County Commissions of Alabama, which provides legal advice and insurance coverage to counties, has also advised county probate judges to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately. The Alabama Governor and Attorney General have likewise stated that they will comply with the Supreme Court’s decision without further delay.
Strawser v Strange is being litigated jointly by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center, on behalf of all same-sex couples in Alabama who wish to marry.