Friday, February 13, 2015

Federal Judge Orders Alabama Probate Judges to Marry Gay Couples

Robert Povilat and Milton Persinger being married
Once again Alabama has chosen to be forced into accepting equality and modernity in general.  Yesterday Judge Callie V. S. "Ginny" Granade of Federal District Court in Mobile made it clear that her order striking down Alabama's same sex marriage ban applied to all probate judges in the state and that federal law, particularly the U.S. Constitution, trumps state law - something a high school government student should know, but which is beyond the comprehension of the knuckle draggers in Alabama, especially those in the Alabama GOP.  As a result, same sex marriages began late yesterday in Mobile County and today they will begin in Baldwin County on the east side of Mobile Bay.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the forced change finally coming to what ought to be called the "make me state".  Here are excerpts:
A federal judge here ruled on Thursday that the local probate judge cannot refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, potentially adding some clarity to a judicial quarrel that has roiled Alabama for most of a week.

The order by Judge Callie V. S. Granade of Federal District Court came after a brief hearing and prompted cheers and crying in the halls of the probate court here, where several couples obtained licenses and were married before the license office closed.

While Judge Granade had declared Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional on Jan. 23, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy S. Moore, insisted in his own order Sunday night that Judge Granade’s ruling did not apply to the state’s probate judges and directed them not to comply. 
The ruling on Thursday was the first in this case with a probate judge as a defendant — Judge Don Davis of Mobile County — and was seen by lawyers for the gay couples who brought the case as a clear signal to probate judges around the state what their duties were.

In a relatively straightforward order, Judge Granade restated her finding that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and concluded that if the couples before her “take all steps that are required in the normal course of business as a prerequisite to issuing a marriage license to opposite-sex couples, Judge Davis may not deny them a license on the ground that plaintiffs constitute same-sex couples.”

Judge Davis almost immediately began issuing licenses to same-sex couples, but it was unclear whether other probate judges would follow suit. As of noon on Thursday, judges in 23 Alabama counties were issuing licenses to all couples, in 18 counties to straight couples only and in 26 to no couples at all, according to a tally kept by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group.

Bill English, the probate judge in Lee County, had been declining to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples this week. Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, he said he had read Judge Granade’s order and interpreted it as applying to him.  “We’ll begin issuing licenses tomorrow morning,” he said, adding that “a number” of same-sex couples had inquired about applying for a license this week.

Chief Justice Moore did not return messages seeking comment on Thursday. In past interviews and in his order Sunday, however, he has argued that lower federal court rulings are not binding on state courts.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they would not hesitate to bring legal action in other counties if probate judges continued to deny licenses to same-sex couples.

How widespread that may be in rural counties where the probate courts keep limited hours will most likely not be known until Friday or even next week. But none of that mattered in Mobile, where, a little after 4 p.m., the weeklong vigil at the Probate Court became a party. Couples embraced, lawyers cheered and people began taking pictures with the court police officers whom they had gotten to know over the last few days.

First in line before the marriage license window were two of the plaintiffs, Robert Povilat, 60, and Milton Persinger, 47, both wearing boutonnieres and with tears in their eyes.
Having lived in Mobile and Baldwin Counties, the area is beautiful and many of the people are truly gracious.  The main problem, as is the case with too many parts of America, is the "godly Christians" who are increasingly the driving force behind hate, bigotry, racism and homophobia as they insist that their rights trump those of everyone else.

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