County will continue issuing same-sex marriage licenses

Published 9:06 am Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Butler County Probate Office will continue to issue both same-sex and traditional marriage licenses despite an administrative order issued Wednesday by the Alabama chief justice.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s administrative order calls for all state probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses contrary to the state’s Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or Marriage Protection act.

“The Butler County Probate Office has been, and will continue to, issue marriage licenses in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Ogerfefell v. Hodges,” Butler County Probate Judge Steve Norman said.

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Norman said he received a memorandum Thursday morning from the Alabama County Commissions Association’s attorney regarding Moore’s administrative order. In the memorandum, probate judges across the state were encouraged to continue to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples “in the same manner and pursuant to the same requirements as applied to traditional couples.”

In January of 2015, U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade of Mobile ruled that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.

In March 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an order enjoining probate judges from issuing same-sex licenses contrary to Alabama law. The ruling came at the request of the Alabama Citizens Action Program and the Alabama Policy Institute, as well as Elmore County Probate Judge John Enslen.

In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order effectively striking down state bans on same-sex marriages.

In his ruling on Wednesday, Moore cites conflicts between the state ruling, federal appellate court rulings since June, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, saying there “confusion and uncertainty” among probate judges because the court has not issued any briefs on how to proceed.

He also questions whether the U.S. Supreme Court ruling applies to Alabama, as the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the case invalidated only same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

Moore said in his ruling because the Alabama Supreme Court has never lifted the March directive, it remains “in full force.”

Most judges in Alabama’s 67 counties, including Butler County, are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Judges in nine counties have shut down license operations altogether to avoid doing so.

Norman said those who want to get a marriage license in Butler County need to come to the probate office and ask for an application. On the application, the information that needs to be filled out is name, address and parents names, etc.

“Once we get all the information, we’ll issue a marriage license,” Norman said.

Norman will also continue to perform marriage ceremonies at his office.

“As probate judge for the last 12 years, I have had the privilege to perform countless marriage ceremonies for many citizens of Butler County,” Norman said. “I can’t count the times that someone has approached me in the grocery store or Walmart and reminded me that I had ‘married them at the courthouse,’ or had young couples come in my office to be married ‘like their folks had done’ years ago. If I refuse to perform a ceremony for a same-sex couple, I would have to refuse to perform all ceremonies, and I feel like this would be a disservice to the citizens of Butler County.”