In the latest developments regarding Alabama and same-sex marriage, a federal judge ordered a state county official to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in order to comply with an earlier federal ruling that declared the state's ban unconstitutional.
According to Ariane de Vogue of CNN, U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade issued her ruling on Probate Judge Don Davis in Mobile County. Her action could send a signal to other state judges to comply with the federal ruling.
"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," Granade wrote. "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."
CNN reported that some probate judges refused to issue marriage licenses because Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore issued an order not to adhere to the ruling. Harry Satterwhite, an attorney representing Davis, argued that his client was "not taking sides in the national debate over same-sex marriage."
"Judge Davis was stuck in a legal dilemma," Satterwhite said. "He was subject to an order from U.S. District Court Judge Granade, and at the same time, he was subject to a conflicting order from Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore."
Satterwhite added that Davis was now "issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Mobile County, Ala."
Another lawyer representing Davis, J. Michael Druhan, told Jonathan Kaminsky of Reuters that the probate judge was dealing with conflicting court directives. He drew a comparison between Davis and a U.S. soldier in Vietnam who stepped on a mine and remained frozen on the spot.
"If he stands there and does nothing, the snipers are going to shoot him in the head," Druhan said in reference to Davis. "If he moves, the mine's going to blow him to pieces."
Reuters reported that Granade's order was limited to Mobile County. Kaminsky noted that within an hour of her ruling, same-sex couples formed a queue at a county building to receive marriage licenses.
However, advocates have told Reuters that judges in 43 of Alabama's 67 counties who refused to issue such licenses still have not issued them yet, despite Granade's order. CNN reported that other groups wanted to keep it that way.
"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," de Vogue wrote.
Reuters reported that Alabama's probate judges will have no choice but to follow the federal court's ruling, despite the fact that the state passed a gay marriage ban in 2006 with 81 percent of the vote.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene on Monday, denying a request to keep same-sex marriages on hold until it has a final say on the issue later this year, which could a strong signal in favor of gay marriage according to Reuters.