Alabama judges weighing whether to officiate same-sex weddings

Shanté Wolfe, left and Tori Sisson embrace near the Montgomery County Courthouse, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala., where they planned to stay overnight hoping to be married the following morning. Later that day, a federal judge stayed her order overturning Alabama's gay marriage ban for two weeks. Brynn Anderson, AP

Shanté Wolfe, left and Tori Sisson embrace near the Montgomery County Courthouse, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala., where they planned to stay overnight hoping to be married the following morning. Later that day, a federal judge stayed her order overturning Alabama's gay marriage ban for two weeks. Brynn Anderson, AP

Shanté Wolfe, left and Tori Sisson embrace near the Montgomery County Courthouse, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala., where they planned to stay overnight hoping to be married the following morning. Later that day, a federal judge stayed her order overturning Alabama‘s gay marriage ban for two weeks.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Fred Hamic is a marrying judge: He’s performed about 1,000 weddings during seven years as Geneva County’s probate judge and considers the ceremonies a highlight of his job.

“Weddings and adoptions. Those are my favorite,” said Hamic.

But Hamic is a Christian, and he plans to quit performing the ceremonies if same-sex marriage begins in Alabama, as could happen because of a federal judge’s ruling.

Madison County’s probate office in Huntsville said last week it would quit performing marriages but cited personnel shortages, not gay marriage, as the reason. Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven Reed said he’ll marry anyone, straight or gay.

“I will do that for any couple that comes in,” Reed said.

Other state judges are up in the air.

“I’ll talk to my pastor, my family, and see what I would do,” said Calhoun County Probate Judge Alice Martin.

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While Alabama law requires probate courts to issue marriage licenses, judges and other court officials have the option of whether to perform wedding ceremonies.

Many churches ban gay weddings, so same-sex courthouse ceremonies became a real possibility for the state’s 68 probate judges when a federal judge in Mobile ruled Jan. 23 that the state’s constitutional and statutory ban on gay marriages violates the U.S. Constitution.

The decision is on hold for now and the delay could be extended by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, as the state has requested. The U.S. Supreme Court has said it would decide whether same-sex marriage should be allowed nationwide, and a decision is likely by late June.

In the meantime, probate judges are trying to decide what to do should same-sex marriage become a reality.

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