Russell Co. follows decree, will not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Russell Co. follows decree, will not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

RUSSELL COUNTY, AL (WTVM) - Following a non-legal order given late Sunday night by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, Russell County, AL will not be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples who wish to obtain one, according to News Leader 9's Jenyne Donaldson.

Russell County Probate Judge Alford Harden said the federal order, which deems Alabama's same-sex marriage law unconstitutional, will not be observed in Russell County after Moore issues a decree that orders all Alabama probate judges to not give marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"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 § 30-1-19, Ala. Code 1975," Moore said in his order.

Officials in Russell County had previously stated it would issue marriage licenses to all couples and stop performing marriage ceremonies for all couples after Monday, to quell controversy.

Several counties in Alabama, including Tuscaloosa are not issuing licenses to same-sex couples; meanwhile, Montgomery, Madison and Jefferson counties are issuing marriage licenses to lesbian and gay couples. Lee County is also observing Chief Justice Moore's order.

Moore's decree came in the eleventh-hour of an expiring stay, blocking same-sex couples from marrying in Alabama. Alabama's laws were initially struck down in two decisions by U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade on Jan. 23 and Jan. 26, saying same-sex couple's rights were violated under the 14th Amendment.

The 14-day stay, issued by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange on Jan. 25, put a hold to the Supreme Court's initial ruling. The marriage ban has also been fully supported by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. Bentley has also stated, however, he does not control the actions of the state's probate judges.

The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday that they would not grant a stoppage of marriage issue licenses in Alabama.

Strange issued a statement, saying he "expressed regret" in the high court's refusal is continue the stay.

"I regret the Supreme Court's decision not to stay the federal district court's ruling until the high court finally settles the issue this summer," Strange said in a statement. "In the absence of a stay, there will likely be more confusion in the coming months leading up to the Supreme Court's anticipated ruling on the legality of same-sex marriage. With the lifting of the 14-day stay on Feb. 9, 2015, the U.S. District Court order remains in effect, enjoining me from enforcing Alabama's laws against same-sex marriage in my official capacity as Attorney General."

Governor Bentley issued a statement on Monday afternoon, saying he has respect for the legal process and that "the issue of same-sex marriage will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court" in 2015.

"This issue has created confusion with conflicting direction for Probate Judges in Alabama. Probate Judges have a unique responsibility in our state, and I support them. I will not take any action against Probate Judges, which would only serve to further complicate this issue," Bentley said. "We will follow the rule of law in Alabama, and allow the issue of same sex marriage to be worked out through the proper legal channels."

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, spoke of Judge Moore's history in response to his order. Moore made national headlines in 2003 when he failed to remove a large replica of the Ten Commandments from the state judicial building.

"Chief Justice Roy Moore, who once before was kicked out of office for defying a federal court order, is once again provoking a confrontation with the federal courts. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, like virtually every other court, has ruled that Alabama's ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional," the statement said.

"To give the state ample opportunity to prevent the ruling from going into effect, the district court has stayed its order until Monday, Feb. 9. The Court of Appeals and, so far, the Supreme Court of the United States has seen fit not to continue the stay," the statement continues. "But, instead of respecting these rulings, the Chief Justice has decided to create a crisis in our state but telling the probate judges to ignore the ruling of the district court and threatening them with unspecified gubernatorial action. It's outrageous. We urge the probate judges to follow the Constitution of the United States and issue marriage licenses when their offices open in the morning. Chief Justice Moore has no authority to tell them to do otherwise."

Alabama is the 37th state in the country to legally recognize same-sex marriages.

Couples having trouble with marriage license is encouraged to call the Equality Alabama/ACLU of Alabama Hotline at (334) 265-2754.

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