Wed | Jan 23, 2019

Alabama begins issuing marriage licenses to gay couples

Published:Tuesday | February 10, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Eleanor Shue lifts her marriage license and yells in celebration as she and partner Jessica White emerge from the Probate Judges office after getting their marriage licenses in the Madison County Courthouse in Huntsville, Alabama yesterday


Gay couples began getting married in Alabama yesterday morning, despite an 11th-hour attempt from the state's chief justice - an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage - to block the weddings.

The US Supreme Court yesterday refused to block the marriages and let a hold on the federal ruling striking the ban expire. Minutes later, Alabama became the 37th state where gays and lesbians can legally wed as probate judges began granting the licenses to couples, some of whom had been lined up for hours and exited courthouses to applause.

"I figured that we would be that last ones. I mean, they would drag Alabama kicking and screaming to equality," said Laura Bush, who married Dee Bush in a ceremony in a park outside the courthouse in Birmingham after receiving a license.

"I remember California, when they were giving it, then it was taken away, and they gave it back," Dee Bush said. So the couple, who has been together for seven years and has five kids between them, decided to "get in there while we can and get it done".

But not all judges issued licenses, despite the January federal ruling that the state's statutory and constitutional bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional. Some followed a Sunday-night order from Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore that they refuse to give same-sex couples licenses.

Moore sent probate judges a letter saying that he still viewed such licenses as illegal under the Alabama Constitution and arguing that the federal judge's order did not require that they be issued.

It was a dramatic return to defiance for the chief justice. He was removed from the post in 2003 for refusing to obey a federal court order to remove a washing machine-size Ten Commandments from the state judicial building. Critics lashed out that Moore had no authority to tell county probate judges to enforce a law that a federal judge already ruled unconstitutional.