Federal judge orders Alabama counties to comply with same-sex marriage ruling

U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade

U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade

Updated: 8:00 p.m. CDT

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — With a handful of Alabama counties still refusing to grant gay marriages even as they issued licenses for straight weddings, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that all must abide by court decisions allowing same-sex unions.

U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade

U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade

Opposition withered as some counties complied with the decision, and gay marriage advocates said they would ask courts to impose penalties on the holdouts that refuse.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade of Mobile issued a brief order saying state probate judges can’t discriminate against gay couples since the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled gay marriage is legal everywhere.

Also Wednesday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans instructed judges in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to wrap up gay marriage cases in their states in line with last week’s ruling.

Granade’s order doesn’t affect counties that have stopped issuing all marriage licenses in response to the Supreme Court decision, but a gay rights attorney said other counties must treat people equally or face penalties.

“We will ask Judge Granade to hold them in contempt if they’d don’t,” said Shannon Minter of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights in Washington.

Possible penalties include monetary fines, cost assessments and even jail time, but Minter said no decision has been made about which penalties to seek.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Minter said.

Minter said his group knew of seven of Alabama’s 67 counties that were issuing licenses to straight couples but not gay couples early in the day, but the number dropped by at least four when Elmore, Franklin, Tallapoosa and Tuscaloosa counties said they would issue licenses to anyone.

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The Alabama Supreme Court has muddied the issue by granting time for gay marriage opponents to voice their opinion about the effects of same-sex weddings.

Granade’s order came at the request of groups representing gay couples across Alabama. The judge, who previously overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, put earlier decisions on hold to allow time for the justices to rule.

Since Alabama law says counties “may” issue marriage licenses, some probate judges have stopped handling marriage licenses altogether rather than let gay couples wed.

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