Several Alabama counties still refusing marriage licenses for same-sex couples

Angela Channell, right, and Dawn Hicks celebrate Friday, February 13, 2015, after becoming the first same-sex couple to apply for and receive a marriage license from Tuscaloosa County in Alabama. The county began issuing licenses to same-sex couples four days after a federal judge's ruling went into effect. Robert Sutton, AP

Angela Channell, right, and Dawn Hicks celebrate Friday, February 13, 2015, after becoming the first same-sex couple to apply for and receive a marriage license from Tuscaloosa County in Alabama. The county began issuing licenses to same-sex couples four days after a federal judge's ruling went into effect.Robert Sutton, AP

Angela Channell, right, and Dawn Hicks celebrate Friday, February 13, 2015, after becoming the first same-sex couple to apply for and receive a marriage license from Tuscaloosa County in Alabama. The county began issuing licenses to same-sex couples four days after a federal judge’s ruling went into effect.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gays and lesbians can marry in a majority of Alabama counties, but at least one-fourth of probate judges are refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, or have shut down marriage license operations altogether out of uncertainty over what to do.

At least 12 Alabama counties are not issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. At least another six are not giving licenses to anyone, gay or straight, to avoid the appearance of discrimination.

Nine days after U.S. District Judge Callie Granade’s ruling went into effect declaring Alabama’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, the marriage landscape remained uneven terrain. Advocates said that gay couples in those counties were being denied their constitutional rights. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore said he was troubled that so many probate judges were giving into the court ruling.

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“I am not disappointed. I am bewildered that so many fail to see that the only law by which they are governed presently is the Alabama Constitution Sanctity of Marriage Amendment,” Moore said of the probate judges.

Alabama probate judges were not defendants in the case, Moore argues, and thus are not subject to a direct court order. He also said they are part of a parallel state court system that doesn’t have to submit to Granade’s views until the U.S. Supreme Court says otherwise.

An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union said Granade’s ruling striking down the gay-marriage ban should be considered the law of the state unless it is overturned or stayed.

“It’s not her initial order that compels them, it’s the United States Constitution that requires them to do so,” said ACLU legal director Randall Marshall.

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