U.S. judge in Alabama orders county to wed gay couples

Kim Chandler
Associated Press

Mobile, Ala – . — The federal judge who overturned Alabama’s gay marriage ban ordered a defiant county to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, signaling to probate judges across the state that they should do the same.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade directed Mobile County to begin issuing the licenses, saying the probate judge there had no reason to deny them after she ruled Alabama’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

Gay rights advocates said they hoped Granade’s order would smooth an uneven legal landscape where gay couples have been able to marry in some Alabama counties and not in others. However, it wasn’t immediately clear what other judges would do.

At least 22 of Alabama’s 67 counties are issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

“Judge Granade’s ruling confirms that the U.S. Constitution requires Alabama probate judges to issue marriage licenses to all qualified couples, gay and straight,” said Randall Marshall, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has said Granade’s original ruling, striking down the gay marriage ban, did not apply to probate judges because they were not defendants in the original case.

Granade issued the order after a brief hearing in Mobile. Moore was not present at the hearing since he is not a defendant in the case. However, he was often the subject of the discussion.

Marshall called Moore’s directive, sent hours before courthouses opened Monday, a “ploy” to stop gay marriage in Alabama.

Michael Druhan, an attorney for Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis, said Davis closed marriage license operations altogether this week — even for heterosexual couples — rather than navigate what seemed like a legal minefield of conflicting directives.

“If you stand still, you might get shot. If you move, you might blow up,” Druhan said outside court.

Druhan could not immediately be reached for comment. He said after the hearing Thursday that they would have to look at any order by Granade before deciding what to do.