Alabama House kills marriage contract bill
June 4th, 2015
Earlier this week the Alabama Senate came up with a proposal to eliminate the issuance of marriage licenses and instead honor marriage contracts between individuals. They saw this as a way to prevent mass insurrection from probate judges who do not want to treat all citizens equally, should the US Supreme Court rule for marriage equality. (AL.com)
It was an attempt to prevent chaos from ensuing if the Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage this summer, [Rep. Greg Albritton, R- Bay Minette] said.
“My goal is not to protect a group,” Albritton said. “My goal is to protect the state.”
But chaos will ensue. Because the Alabama House killed the bill.
The legislation passed in the Senate, but it won’t go before the House for consideration. It failed 8-3 in the House Judiciary Committee.
So yeah, there will be probate judges who refuse to do their job. Some will quit. Some will whine. And the Alabama State Supreme Court – led by Chief Justice Roy Moore – will likely issue edicts of varying degrees of lunacy determined to “protect” these people from having to apply the law equally to all citizens.
But in the end, after the tantrums die out, Alabama will comply with the law of the land.
Alabama Senate votes to abolish marriage licenses
June 2nd, 2015
At some point this month the Supreme Court of the United States will rule on Obergefell v Hodges and determine whether states may exclude same-sex couples from marriage rights and recognition. And the legislators in Alabama seem to join the rest of the nation in the presumption that the court will rule for equality.
But they don’t like it one bit.
Already the Alabama Supreme Court has postured and pretended to think that their opinions overrule the federal judiciary system. But everyone knows that won’t hold up for long.
So now the state legislature has taken a page from Oklahoma’s playbook and come up with another notion: do away with marriage licenses altogether. Senate Bill 377 has passed the State Senate by a vote of 22 to 3 and is moving on to the House.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA:
(a) Effective July 1, 2015, the only requirement to be married in this state shall be for parties who are otherwise legally authorized to be married to enter into a contract of marriage as provided herein.
(h) Effective July 1, 2015, any requirement to obtain a marriage license issued by the judge of probate is abolished and repealed.
So instead of obtaining a license, couples would fill out a contract form and file it with the clerk after the fact.
I don’t see much advantage that this would give those who oppose equality. It would, I suppose, remove the “permission” aspect of the state authorizing same-sex marriages in advance, and it would allow judges of probate the ability to not sully their hand by giving marriage licenses to people they hate. But they would still have to process and file the contract and same-sex couples would receive all the rights of marriage.
It is entirely possible that the State of Alabama will argue that any ruling in Obergefell applies only to marriage licenses, not marriage contracts. And if they do, the judicial jokesters in the state Supreme Court will rubberstamp that nonsense with glees.
But such a tactic would only delay the process for the amount of time it takes for a federal judge to issue to issue a ruling and the Circuit and Supreme Courts to refuse to stay the ruling.
Despite the unconventionality of the proposal, libertarian minded people may find value in “getting the state out of the marriage business” and those who are not religious or formal may find the civil contract to be less laden with pomp and tradition than a license.
But I suspect most Alabamians, gay or straight, will just find uncertainty with the process and may feel that their marriages have become devalued. And it could cause some confusion for couples, gay or straight, who rely on licenses as evidence of marriage for insurance, federal filings, or other purposes.
While this bill, should it pass the House and be signed by the Governor, could be an inconvenience to everyone. But it isn’t likely to be an effective tool for denying equality to same-sex couples.
Alabama marriage equality expanded state wide
May 21st, 2015
Through much of the spring, anti-gay politicians in Alabama have been trying to thwart Federal Judge Ginny Granade’s ruling that the state ban on same-sex marriage violates the US Constitution. And one of the ways they have sought to do so is to pretend to misunderstand the impact of the ruling. The elected officials, along with the state Supreme Court, decided that her ruling only applied to the specific plaintiffs in the case.
So marriage advocates have gone back to Judge Granade and requested that the case be expanded to a class action and that it apply to all couples in all counties of the state. Today Granade ruled. (AL.com)
A federal judge in Mobile on Thursday applied her ruling striking down Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban to all 68 probate judges in Alabama but delayed it from taking effect until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the gay marriage issue.
Although the judge did not make her ruling immediate, she did address the silliness of the Alabama Supreme Court.
“It is true that if this Court grants the preliminary injunction the probate judges will be faced with complying with either Alabama’s marriage laws that prohibit same-sex marriage as they have been directed by the Alabama Supreme Court or with complying with the United States Constitution as directed by this Court,” Granade wrote. “However, the choice should be simple. Under the Supremacy Clause, the laws of the United States are ‘the supreme Law of the Land.'”
She added, “Judge Davis and the other probate judges cannot be held liable for violating Alabama state law when their conduct was required by the United States Constitution.”
Minister sentenced and fined for stance on gay marriage
May 19th, 2015
A minister in Prattville, AL, has been fined and sentenced to jail time for trying to uphold religious beliefs about same-sex marriage. But neither the Alliance Defending Freedom nor the Family Research Counsel nor any other defender of religious freedom has come to her aid or spoke in her defense.
On February 9, 2015, marriage equality came to Alabama. And on that day Autauga Probate Judge Al Booth decided that he wasn’t going to allow marriages to be conducted in his office anymore.
Unitarian Universalists have a long history of social justice activism, and Anne Susan DiPrizio, as a Unitarian minister, believed it to be within the practice of her faith to offer matrimony services to two women who had just received a marriage license. When told that she could not conduct same-sex marriages in the Probate Office, DiPrizio refused to leave. So she was hauled to jail.
Yesterday she heard her sentence. (Montgomery Advertiser)
Anne Susan DiPrizio, 44, of the 300 block of Cambridge Street, entered the plea before Judge Ben Fuller, but not before some delays and judicial wrangling. He gave her 30 days in the Autauga Metro Jail, and then suspended the sentence in place of 6 months unsupervised probation. Fuller also ordered her to pay a $250 fine and other associated court costs.
I’m not suggesting that DiPrizio should have defied the probate judge or sought to perform religious services where they were not allowed or welcomed. But it’s worth noting that amidst all the hue and cry turning cake bakers into martyrs in the name of religious freedom, here is an actual ordained minister who was jailed and fined for seeking to practice her faith and support same-sex marriage.
Alabama marriage carnival goes on
March 19th, 2015
Since our last update, the marriage situation in Alabama has continued to whirl and twirl to a wild caliope tune.
Mobile County Probate Judge Davis, having been told by the Alabama Supreme Court that he was not exempt from their order to discriminate against same-sex couples, turned back to Federal Judge Granade. He noted that the plaintiffs in the case have all gotten married now, and requested that she put a stay on her order so as to keep him from having to defy one court or the other.
Judge Granade didn’t let him off the hook. She said, no dear, it’s isn’t much good that you’ve issued the licenses if the state won’t recognize them. And really you haven’t given me any reason why my ruling shouldn’t be upheld, so go on now and do what you’ve been told.
So Davis is refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone.
But his problems didn’t stop there. Part of the marriage lawsuit was driven by Cari Searcy, one of the plaintiffs, desire to adopt the child that she and Kim McKeand had raised since birth. Alabama doesn’t allow second-parent adoption, but now that she’s married to the mother, she should be eligible.
But the state is refusing to recognize the marriage so Davis tried to enact partial compliance. He issued an interlocutory decree granting Searcy temporary parental rights but said he would not rule on the adoption itself until after the Supreme Court made it’s decision.
Searcy’s attorneys then sued Davis for failure to follow the order of the Federal Judge. But Davis used this to his advantage. He noted that he’s now a party to the suit and therefore no longer impartial and recused himself from the review of the adoption and asked the Alabama Supreme Court to give him a replacement for the case.
But, Searcy’s attorneys claim, a change in 2001 would have the replacement made by the presiding circuit judge. The matter is unclear because there is uncertainty whether the 2001 change applies to probate judges. This will undoubtedly delay the adoption further.
Meanwhile, Judge Granade has made her first ruling on the request by plaintiffs to add additional plaintiffs and to make the case class action. Attorney General Luther Strange had argued that too much time had passed, but Granade didn’t buy that.
She ruled that the case could be amended to allow additional plaintiffs and defendants.
There being no substantial reason to deny leave to amend, the court must allow the amendment. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ motion for leave to file a second amended complaint (Doc. 76) is hereby GRANTED.
However, she did not rule on whether the case would be made class action.
Thus, although the court may dismiss class allegations “[w]here it is facially apparent from the pleadings that there is no ascertainable class,” …, the court finds that the Plaintiffs in this case have alleged adequate facts to support a potential class claim and the court will not engage in a detailed and rigorous analysis of the class claims until all of the current parties have had the opportunity to oppose or support the motion for class certification.
Grenade has given Strange until March 23rd to tell her why “all persons in Alabama who wish to obtain a marriage license in order to marry a person of the same sex and to have that marriage recognized under Alabama law, and who are unable to do so because of the enforcement of Alabama’s laws prohibiting the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples and barring recognition of their marriages” is an ill-defined class definition.
It seems rather unlikely that Strange will convince Judge Granade that this class of people is vague and ill-defined. And it seems rather likely that Judge Granade will determine that her ruling applies to all such couples. This will eliminate all ambiguity about the extent and scope of the Federal ruling and may set the state on course for a showdown with the Federal government.
And then we will see what the Alabama Supreme Court has to say.
‘Bama Supremes er at it agin
March 11th, 2015
Remember when the Supreme Court of the State of Alabama declared that they and they alone know what is in the US Constitution and ordered all counties in the state to stop issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples? Well, at the time, they made one tiny temporary exception.
They told Probate Judge Davis that he needed to get back to them about whether he thought that he was under any obligation to perform the tasks that Federal Judge Granade had ordered him to do.
And Davis, not being a complete lunatic nor wishing to be held in contempt, requested that he be exempted from the state court’s orders. Yeah, like that was going to happen! (WSFA)
The probate judge sought an 11-day extension to comply with the court’s order motion and on March 9 advised the court that he should not be included in the March 3 order because it would require him to violate a federal district court order.
The Alabama Supreme Court denied Davis’ request saying his concern was without merit.
“Davis has made no showing that he was, or is, the subject of any previously entered federal court order other than the one issued in Strawser,” the justices wrote, “and he makes no showing that that order has any continuing, binding effect on him as to any marriage-license applicants beyond the four couples who were the plaintiffs in that case and who already have received the relief they requested.”
I rather suspect that if Judge Granade was not pissed off already, this might have done it. And the ‘Baba Supremes may well discover that her idea of “without merit” is quite different from the one the good ol’ boys have.
Alabama attorneys petition for class action on marriage case
March 6th, 2015
The attorneys who won their case against Alabama’s anti-gay marriage ban have gone back to Judge Granade and requested that the case be made a class action, impacting all same-sex couples who wish to marry.
Specifically, Plaintiffs seek: (a) a declaration that Alabama’s prohibition of marriage for same-sex couples violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution; (b) a declaration that Alabama’s refusal to recognize the marriages of samesex couples under state law violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution; and (c) a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction, as well as a permanent injunction, (i) preventing Defendant Class members from denying Plaintiffs and Plaintiff Class members the right to marry, (ii) directing Named Defendants Davis and Russell and the members of the Defendant Class to issue marriage licenses to all same-sex couples who otherwise satisfy the qualifications for marriage under Alabama law; and (iii) directing Defendants to recognize for all purposes the marriages of all same-sex couples validly entered into pursuant to marriage licenses issued in Alabama or any other jurisdiction at any time.
Whatcha gotta say about that, Roy Moore?
Alabama weddings screech to a halt
March 4th, 2015
The members of the Alabama Supreme Court appear to think that the state is not subject to federal rulings and apparently believes that they, not the federal judicial system, are the final word on applying the Due Process and Equal Protections provisions of the US Constitution.
Some of the anti-gay probate judges, along with anti-gay activist groups, sued in state court to have same-sex marriages stopped. The state Supreme Court responded:
As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for “marriage” only between one man and one woman. Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.
In other words, it doesn’t matter in the slightest that the Alabama law has been found by a federal judge to be a violation of the US Constitution. Nor does it matter that the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals did not grant a stay, finding it unlikely that this ruling will be overturned. Nor is it relevant that the Supreme Court of the United States also refused to stay the ruling, making its intentions clear.
Nope. Neither Judge Granade nor the judges on the Eleventh Circuit Panel not the Justices of the Supreme Court know what is “in the United States Constitution”. No sirree. ‘Bama knows better.
So they’ve ordered the stop of all same-sex marriage licenses.
The named respondents are ordered to discontinue the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
And not just the specific counties sued.
Further, and pursuant to relator Judge Enslen’s request that this Court, “by any and all lawful means available to it,” ensure compliance with Alabama law with respect to the issuance of marriage licenses, each of the probate judges in this Stateother than the named respondents and Judge Davis are joined as respondents in the place of the “Judge Does” identified in the petition.
Now there is one possible exception. Because Judge Granade specifically ordered Mobile County Probate Judge Davis to issue marriage license to four couples, the Alabama Supreme Court has not yet ordered him to stop. Rather, they demand that he come back and tell them whether he thinks that Granade’s ruling only extends to those four couples. Cuz unlike their rulings, federal rulings are limited only to the specific appellants.
So all the counties have stopped issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Including Mobile County which has closed its offices.
Of course no one, inside the state or outside, thinks this has anything to do with law, justice, or constitutionality. This is merely arrogance and animus on the Alabama court’s part.
Every now and again the good ol’ boys down there seem to need to remind the world that when it comes to matters of equality and civil rights, ‘Bama ain’t having it.
Alabama county update
February 13th, 2015
As of last count, in Alabama
47 counties are observing marriage equality
6 are issuing no marriage licenses to anyone
8 are issuing only to opposite-sex couples
5 are unreachable for inquiry
The equality counties are interspersed throughout the state, so few couples wishing to marry are inconvenienced with not more than a short drive.
Alabama Presbyterians vote for marriage equality
February 12th, 2015
In a rather timely decision, the central Alabama presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has voted to endorse changes in the church rules that would allow them to conduct same-sex marriages. (AL.com)
The Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, a central Alabama group of churches affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), voted 75-39 Thursday in favor of approving gay marriages.
They became one of about 38 presbyteries nationwide that have voted in favor of gay marriage, with 14 voting against. The change to the 1.8-million-member denomination’s official stance will become official if 86 of the 171 presbyteries vote in favor.
Now the Presbyterian Church is nowhere as dominant in Alabama as the Southern Baptists. But news like this does go a long way to dilute the But God Says! and Attack on Christianity! messages upon which anti-gay Christian rely so heavily.
Ironically, some of the supportive Presbyterians looked a bit askance at the impromptu ceremonies conducted this week.
Webster said he prefers that gay marriage in the church follow a protocol of the couple being members in a church and seeking pre-marital counseling before being married in a sacred ceremony in a church.
“It seemed frivolous and impetuous,” Webster said. “We would have dealt with it more seriously, with church members in the context of a church community. For us, it’s a worship service.”
And perhaps that’s one of the ways in which we know that society is on the road to full acceptance, when levels of establishment feel that you should follow the prescribed order, just like everyone else!
Mobile County Alabama ordered to issue marriage licenses
February 12th, 2015
On Monday, Judge Carrie Grenade’s stay was lifted and marriage equality came to Alabama. But not to all of the state.
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered (apparently on his own imagined authority) and order commanding probate judges to refuse service to same-sex couples. Some probate judges followed Moore’s order and flouted the law, issuing marriage licenses to opposite sex couples but not same sex couples. And some chose to not issue licenses to anyone, citing conflicting orders.
Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis was one who froze all marriage licenses. On Monday, he was sued by same-sex couples in Mobile County who wish to marry.
A federal judge in Mobile on Thursday ordered Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis to start granting marriage licenses to gay couples, and he immediately took steps to do just that.
Less clear is whether other probate judges, who are not defendants in either case considered Thursday, would alter their position in the face of a new ruling by Granade. Marshall, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said he believes most probate judges will take their cues from Granade’s new order. For those who continue to resist, he said, same-sex marriage advocates will file new lawsuits naming them as defendants.
This will, undoubtedly, result in most probate judges issuing licenses. But I suspect some will be recalcitrant and fight tooth and toenail.
Alabama Supremes’ response undermines Judge Roy Moore
February 12th, 2015
In an article titled “Alabama Supreme Court punts on request for ‘clarification’ of Roy Moore’s marriage order”, AL.com reports that the Alabama Supreme Court has rejected a request.
The Alabama Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a request by Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis to clarify Chief Justice Roy Moore’s order instructing probate judges to ignore a federal court ruling allowing same-sex marriage.
And, indeed, they have. The jurists other than Moore (who recused himself) refused to provide any answer as to whether Davis and the other probate judges must follow Judge Grenade’s ruling and provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
However, AL.com’s next paragraph seems to contradict their headline.
The justices wrote that they do not have the authority to address the question.
That is not a neutral position. That is not a view that says, “Gee, we don’t know.”
The implications are clear and Davis, along with the other county officials, should be bright enough to see them. If the Alabama State Supreme Court does not have the authority to direct probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, then surely the Chief Justice, acting alone, lacks any prerogative to do so.
Alabama probate judges block 50 “traditional” marriages per day
February 11th, 2015
In 2013 (the last year available) there were 37,789 marriage licenses issued. Which averages to about 150 licenses per business day. All of them “traditional” marriages between a man and a woman.
Currently, about 35% of Alabama residents live in counties in which the probate judges have refused to issue marriage licenses to anyone, gay or straight. So some 50 or so ‘traditional’ marriage licenses are being denied per day.
For the life of me, I don’t see how this benefits anyone.
Alabama Governor not standing in the doorway
February 10th, 2015
Governor Bentley of Alabama opposes marriage equality. However, he too sees comparisons between the behavior of his state today and that of 50 years ago and he has no intention of taking up the mantle of former Alabama Governor George Wallace. (Talking Points Memo)
Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican and a Southern Baptist, said he believes strongly that marriage is between one man and one woman, but that the issue should be “worked out through the proper legal channels” and not through defiance of the law.
The governor noted that Alabama is about to be in the spotlight again with the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was passed after civil rights marchers were attacked and beaten in Selma, Alabama — events chronicled in the Oscar-nominated movie “Selma.”
“I don’t want Alabama to be seen as it was 50 years ago when a federal law was defied. I’m not going to do that,” Bentley said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.
“I’m trying to move this state forward.”
Understanding the probate judges in Alabama – UPDATED
February 9th, 2015
Same-sex marriages are being conducted today in Alabama. But about half of the state’s counties have probate judges (an elected position which administers marriage licenses) who refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses. They state that neither Alabama law nor any judicial ruling requires that they do so.
They are technically correct.
A very similar situation nearly occurred in Florida. There some county clerks were either uncertain as to their obligations or were playing games. And so Judge Hinkle issued a clarification in which he laid out the difference between the results of a lawsuit and the consequences of a constitutional ruling.
He noted that no clerk who has not been a party to a lawsuit is compelled to act as the result of a ruling. His order did not name them and so failing to act accordingly was not contempt of court.
However, he pointed out that something larger and greater than his ruling did compel them to act: the Constitution of the United States. And those who wanted to continue to act in defiance of the Constitution could be held liable for both the civil and financial consequences of doing so.
At that point, the Florida clerks took his direction and issued marriage licenses irrespective of gender.
Judge Grenade, in Alabama, used Judge Hinkle’s same wording in response to the same question. She noted that it was not her ruling but the Constitution that compelled equality.
But, unlike in Florida, probate judges have decided that (in the words of Washington County Probate Judge Nick Williams) they “aren’t worried about following the U.S. Constitution.”
So they are playing the “my name isn’t on that order” game. Being elected politicians in a state that does not value the Equal Protections clause of the Constitution, they are seeking to gain election value by defying the nation’s guiding document. And damn the cost (or inconvenience to them homosexuals)!
Equality advocates have been caught flat-footed. Some have tried to sue for contempt, failing to note that they have to have a ruling in their favor against that particular probate judge. Proper legal procedure is not a terribly difficult process, but it has to be followed.
My presumption is that eventually the correct paperwork will be filed. Federal judges – either Judge Grenade or others – will rule against a few specific probate judges in a few specific counties and slap their wrist with legal fees. And then all the others will fall in line.
Should any probate judge fail to do so, I suspect that they will be hit with very large penalties for defying the authority of the federal judiciary.
It may take a few days or weeks, but it’s a done deal.
Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis has now been sued. This time the proper request appears to have been included:
Plaintiffs hereby respectfully requests [sic] that this Court enter an Emergency Injunction commanding the Defendants to issue the marriage licenses guaranteed by the Constitution as interpreted by this court.