LGBT rights groups ask judge to compel Alabama counties to comply with marriage ruling

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Groups representing same-sex couples Tuesday said more Alabama counties are beginning to follow the U.S Supreme Court’s marriage ruling but want a federal judge to order reluctant probate judges to comply.

“That number refusing is dwindling, but we are not in full compliance yet,” said Randall Marshall, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama.

Civil rights groups representing couples in a class-action lawsuit filed a motion Monday asking U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade in Mobile to issue a permanent injunction directing probate judges to issue the licenses. Granade, who in January ruled that the state’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, issued a preliminary injunction in May but put the order on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled.

“As of June 26 when the court ruled, every probate judge in the state of Alabama is required to issue marriage licenses on an equal basis,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of National Center for Lesbian Rights.

An Associated Press survey Monday found about half of Alabama counties were giving or willing to give marriage licenses to gay couples. Another 22 counties were not issuing the licenses or had shut down marriage license operations altogether as they considered what to do next.

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Equality Alabama, a group working for gay rights in the state, said Tuesday that 43 of the state’s 67 counties were complying with the court ruling.

Minter said the next step will be to seek sanctions against judges who issue licenses to heterosexual couples but refuse them to gay couples. However, they might not be able to do anything about counties that stop issuing licenses altogether.

State law says that probate judges “may” issue marriage licenses, meaning they aren’t required to issue them. Several judges have cited that provision as they close marriage license operations.

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