Alabama. The Heart of Dixie. Epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement. Breeding ground of the KKK. Home of the Crimson Tide and antigay Governor Robert Bentley, who, as you may recall, had his adulterous phone sex recording leak earlier this year.
Historically, the state has never been particularly good at advancing with the times. And it doesn’t appear to be getting any better because it appears over a dozen probate judges in at least eight different counties have not yet received the Supreme Court’s memo from 18 months ago that declared marriage a fundamental right for all people living in America.
Since the historic ruling in June 2015, many probate judges have denied marriage licenses to any couple living in Alabama, gay or straight.
“We do not issue marriage licenses because our judge chose not to,” Debbie Owens, chief clerk of Washington County, which is overseen by Judge Nick Williams, tells AL.com. “It’s our judge’s choice.”
“Alabama law says probate judges may issue marriage licenses, but doesn’t require them to,” Angi Stalnaker, spokeswoman for Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen, adds. “The Supreme Court said you can’t discriminate against individuals. He’s not discriminating because he’s not issuing licenses to anybody in Pike County.”
But not everyone–or anyone, frankly–buys the excuse.
“There is no doubt that the counties that are not issuing licenses to anybody have taken that approach because of the same sex-marriage decision,” Randall C. Marshall, legal director of the ACLU of Alabama, says. “The U.S. Supreme Court talked about marriage as a fundamental right, [so] individuals who live in those counties and are burdened by the refusal of the probate judge to issue marriage licenses may, in fact, have a constitutional claim.”
“We thought this was over but, sure enough, Alabama will be the last state in the nation to get through this,” Gary Wright II, one of the plaintiff’s in the state’s original gay marriage case Strawser v. Strange adds. “Everyone thinks, especially after the Supreme Court win, that this was settled … but the judges who didn’t want to go along with [gay marriage] just said, ‘we won’t issue licenses to any couple.'”
When pressed on this, Stalnaker exercised her teenage logic by saying that Alabama law “says that they ‘may’ issue marriage licenses, not that they ‘shall’ issue them.”