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Alabama resumes issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but not everywhere

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The couple came to Jefferson County after getting turned away in Shelby. Shelby County Probate Judge Jim Fuhrmeister was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon. A clerk said he would not begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses until he has had time to review the Supreme Court’s decision.

But Pike County Probate County Judge Wes Allen said he was “saddened” by the Supreme Court’s decision and said he wouldn’t issue marriage licenses to anyone, gay or straight. Allen cited a section of Alabama law that says counties “may” issue marriage licenses rather than requiring them to do so outright.

Alabama spent much the first half of 2015 in a fight over gay marriage. A judge ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. About 500 same-sex couples were married until the Alabama Supreme Court stepped in and directly ordered probate judges to stop issuing the licenses.

The Association of County Commissions of Alabama, which has provided legal guidance and liability coverage to judges during a twisting legal fight over gay marriage, sent probate judges a memo suggesting that judges take applications but not issue the licenses on Friday as lawyers review the ruling.

“We’ve just suggested for this one afternoon, as remarkable as this one afternoon is, we don’t see any harm in doing all due diligence before moving forward,” said Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the group. Brasfield said he presumes that their advice on Monday will be to issue licenses.

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Top elected officials in Alabama criticized the high court’s decision, but acknowledged it was law.

“I have always believed in the Biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said in a written statement.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said the court “overturned centuries of tradition and the will of the citizens of a majority of the states.” However, Strange said the court had the final say absent a change to the U.S. Constitution.

State Rep. Patricia Todd, the state’s only openly gay lawmaker, cheered the ruling and said she hoped state probate judges would immediately begin granting marriage licenses to gay couples.

“I’m ecstatic. I’m not shocked, I felt they would give a very strong clear opinion which leaves nothing to chance, which they did. I’m just tickled to death. It validates all of these marriages. Now we’ve got to figure out if probate judges in Alabama will cause any stink, which is a possibility, of course,” Todd said.

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