BY AP and BTL Staff Report
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – On Friday the U.S. Supreme Court did not grant a stay on a lower court’s ruling that deemed unconstitutional Alabama’s ban on marriage equality. It led anti-gay Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore to issue a 6-page letter to probate judges to not issue licenses to same-sex couples beginning Monday. That order went against two rulings from U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade that separately struck down legislation and a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the state.
On Monday morning the U.S. Supreme Court ignored a request from Alabama officials to extend the stay further and couples in Alabama began marrying immediately, making the state the 37th in the nation to do so.
In Jefferson County, Dinah McCaryer and Olanda Smith were the first women to emerge from the crowd of same-sex couples who filed in to seek marriage licenses.
Within minutes, Judge Michael G. Graffeo of Alabama Circuit Court, clearly ignoring Moore’s letter, at times tearfully, officiated a civil wedding ceremony for the two women, who said they had been a couple for seven years.
“By the authority vested in me as a circuit judge of the State of Alabama, I now pronounce Olanda and Dinah are married spouses, entitled to all rights and privileges, as well as all responsibilities, afforded and placed upon them by the State of Alabama,” Judge Graffeo said. “You can show your affection.”
The ruling brings same sex marriage to the Deep South and to a state considered one of the Bible Belt’s most socially conservative. While gay marriage is now legal in much of the U.S., over half of the 14 states still enforcing bans on gay marriage were located in the South, a swath of resistance stretching from roughly Texas to Kentucky.
Alabama voters in 2006 approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage by a 4-to-1 margin.
The Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions on Friday approved a resolution expressing “moral outrage, intense grief and strong disagreement over court rulings that have set our culture in a direction against the biblical definition of marriage.”
“We likewise call upon Alabama Baptists to pray for our state and nation and to stand strong in support of biblical marriage as the only form that should be legal in Alabama and throughout our nation,” Rick Lance, executive director, Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said in a statement Friday.
Pastor Franklin D. Raddish of South Carolina, who led a prayer vigil against same-sex marriage at the Alabama Capitol, urged southerners to refuse to recognize the marriages that he called “from the devil’s hell.”
Monroe County Probate Judge Greg Norris said he expects most probate judges to issue licenses, although at least one has said he will refuse until he gets greater clarity from the courts. However, several judges have said they will stop performing weddings altogether so they don’t have to marry gay couples.
Elmore County Probate Judge John Enslen said he is complying with an order from Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore to not issue same-sex marriage licenses.
Enslen is one of several probate judges in the state who have said they will not perform marriage ceremonies, an optional service in probate court. Before Moore’s order, Enslen said he would issue marriage licenses to all couples as he was required to do so by law.
Enslen, in a statement on Friday said, “I will never perform a so-called same-sex marriage. A federal court can put me in jail for life, and I will still never perform a so-called same-sex marriage. I hear people saying that I need to be on the right side of history. My reply to that is this: In the end, God is always on the right side of history. It was Sodom and Gomorrah that were on the wrong side of history.”
Enslen’s issued another statement Monday after Moore sent out his directives saying, “Chief Justice Roy Moore, in his capacity as Administrative Head of the Alabama Judicial System, Art. 149, Ala. Const., 1901, issued an Order yesterday, Sunday, February 8, 2015, at approximately 8:15 p.m. Said Order states, in pertinent part, “Effective immediately, no Probate Judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama Probate Judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent with Article 1, Section 36.03, of the Alabama Constitution or SS 30-1-19, Ala. Code 1975.” Therefore, by order of Chief Justice Roy Moore, the Elmore County Probate Office will not be issuing same sex marriage licenses until and unless ordered to do so by a higher authority or the chief justices’ order is rescinded. Additionally, the current office policy of not conducting marriage ceremonies remains in force.”
Moore’s previous efforts at stopping marriage equality sought ethics charges and demands for his termination from groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Human Rights Campaign. HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow had this to say about his latest actions:
“This is a pathetic, last-ditch attempt at judicial fiat by an Alabama Supreme Court justice – a man who should respect the rule of law rather than advance his personal beliefs. Absent further action by the U.S. Supreme Court, the federal ruling striking down Alabama’s marriage ban ought to be fully enforced, and couples that have been waiting decades to access equal marriage under the law should not have to wait a single day longer. All probate judges should issue licenses tomorrow morning, and Chief Justice Roy Moore ought to be sanctioned.”