By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, July 1, 2015, Federal District Judge Callie Granade issued orders to all probate judges in the State of Alabama to immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Judge Granade’s order confirms that her injunction applies to all of Alabama’s probate judges.
Judge Granade stated: “By the language set forth in the order, the preliminary injunction is now in effect and binding on all members of the Defendant Class.”
In that May 21 preliminary injunction order, Judge Granade directed all Alabama probate judges to stop enforcing the State’s marriage ban – effective immediately after the US Supreme Court’s ruling affirming marriage equality. The Supreme Court issued its decision last Friday, so the injunction prohibiting enforcement of the ban went into effect that day.
Judge Callie Granade declared months ago in the landmark Strawser versus Strange case in Mobile that Alabama’s Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as being valid only between one man and one woman was unconstitutional and unenforceable. Granade ordered the judges to begin issuing the licenses to same-sex couples then. After some period of confusion, the Alabama Supreme Court stepped in and ordered the Probate Judges not to comply with that order, while the matter was adjudicated before the Federal courts.
On Friday, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that marriage is a fundamental right and the states are forbidden under the 14th Amendment from discriminating against same-sex couples who want to get married.
The four organizations representing the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit are the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The four groups requested that Judge Granade provide the clarification so that all parties in the State understand her position. According to information provided by the plaintiffs’ attorneys, violation of Judge Granade’s order could result in a county probate judge being held liable in contempt of court, attorneys’ fees, financial penalties, and any other remedies the court deems proper.
The Director of the legal staff for the Administrative Office of the Alabama Courts, Win Johnson wrote Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) and urged defiance of the Federal judiciary on this issue.
Johnson wrote that, “Public officials are ministers of God assigned the duty of punishing the wicked and protecting the righteous.” Johnson said that Bentley, “Cannot serve two masters; you must pick – God or Satan.”
Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) has since reprimanded Director Johnson for the letter.
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Alabama Director State Representative Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) said in a statement:
“This order is crystal clear, and it should remove the cotton that Chief Justice Roy Moore has been stuffing in probate judges’ ears across this state. Marriage equality must begin everywhere, and couples who have been waiting, in many cases, two or three decades to get married shouldn’t have to wait a minute longer.”
HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow released the following statement: “Despite the best efforts of doom-sayers and obstructionists, there is no mass movement to obstruct the implementation of the Supreme Court’s sweeping ruling on marriage equality. We will continue to monitor challenges wherever they emerge, but it’s clear today that most Americans in all 50 states are willing and happy to celebrate and support the constitutional rights of their LGBT neighbors.”
Most county probate judges are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but not all.
The original lawsuit, Strawser v. Strange, was brought by five same-sex couples. It initially resulted in an order from Judge Granade requiring the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Mobile County. The order was expanded in Granade’s May 21 order to cover all Alabama counties.