A federal judge in Alabama on Thursday instructed a probate judge in Mobile County to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, sending a strong signal to other judges in other counties that they, too, should follow suit.
United States District Court Judge Callie V. Granade wrote, “Probate Judge Don Davis is hereby enjoined from refusing to issue marriage licenses to plaintiffs due to the Alabama laws which prohibit same-sex marriage.”
“This injunction binds Judge Don Davis and all his officers, agents, servants and employees, and others in active concert or participation with any of them, who would seek to enforce the marriage laws of Alabama which prohibit or fail to recognize same sex marriages,” she said.
Although Granade had struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage in January, some probate judges had refused to issue licenses because the Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, Roy Moore, ordered them not to.
An attorney for Davis issued a statement on Thursday saying the judge was “not taking sides in the national debate over same-sex marriage.”
“Judge Davis was stuck in a legal dilemma,” said Harry V. Satterwhite, Davis’ attorney. “He was subject to an order from U.S. District Court Judge Granade, and at the same time, he was subject to an conflicting order from Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore.”
“As a result of today’s Order from Judge Granade, Judge Davis is issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Mobile County, Alabama,” he added.
Further complicating the issue, Davis’ attorney said, is the fact that the Alabama Policy Group and the Alabama Citizens Action program have filed a lawsuit on Wednesday that would stop Alabama probate judges from issuing licenses to gay couples.
Four same-sex couples had asked Granade earlier on Thursday to clarify the scope of her original ruling.
“This order should make clear to all of the probate judges across Alabama that they need to follow the federal district court’s constitutional ruling striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage,” said Elizabeth B. Wydra, chief counsel of the Constitutional Accountability Center. “If necessary, gay and lesbian couples will haul resisting judges into court and the end result will be the same: a federal order requiring those judges to issue marriage licenses.”