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Susan Watson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said probate judges could face court sanctions if they issue marriage licenses to heterosexual couples but refuse to give them to gay couples.
“There is no justification for delaying or obstructing the clear message of the Supreme Court of the United States – marriage equality must begin in Alabama, and probate judges who stand in the way of that legal imperative risk exposing themselves to legal consequences,” Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said in a statement.
Some counties began granting the licenses to gay couples on Friday. More counties followed suit Monday after the Association of County Commissions of Alabama sent a memo advising probate judges to follow the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
“We are going to issue a license to every couple that qualifies under the law,” Monroe County Probate Judge Greg Norris said. “We’re going to follow the law.”
Shelby County began issuing same-sex marriage licenses on Monday, after delaying on Friday so that Probate Judge James Fuhrmeister could review the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.
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“Thank God that we have probate judges who stand for that which is right to keep their counties out of the principle of marrying that which God says cannot be married,” John Killian, pastor at Maytown Baptist Church, told a news conference in front of the Alabama Supreme Court building.
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 ponder what to do.
“I expect, in those counties, voters will get tired of having to drive to other counties to get marriage licenses,” Watson said. “That’s just ridiculous. It’s a hassle for everyone.”
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