- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2015

Alabama’s gay marriage fight is moving to the state’s highest court.

Late Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled 6-2 that probate judges who have been issuing marriage licenses to gay couples must respond to an emergency petition brought by Liberty Counsel and two traditional-values groups.

Initial responses are due Wednesday, and additional briefs are due Friday, said the order.

The Alabama Policy Institute and Alabama Citizens Action Program want the state court to order the probate judges to cease and desist their issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“I am pleased that the Alabama Supreme Court has ordered an expedited briefing and is proceeding on a fast track,” Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said Friday.

The battle over gay marriage flared up Feb. 9, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided to deny the state’s request to keep a stay on U.S. District Judge Callie V. Granade’s January ruling, which said Alabama is wrong to deny marriage licenses to gay couples.

Judge Granade’s ruling went into effect that day, but only about 10 of the state’s 67 probate judges started issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

That’s because on Feb. 8, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy S. Moore told the probate judges, who are under his court’s jurisdiction, to continue to uphold Alabama’s one man-one woman marriage law.

Liberty Counsel said Friday that Judge Granade’s ruling “does not automatically create a law that validates same-sex marriages,” despite claims by the media and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The federal judge also does not have the authority to order all probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the legal defense group said.

However, when Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis refused to issue licenses to some gay couples, they sued. Last Thursday, Judge Granade ordered him to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

His office did so, and on Friday, many other Alabama probate judges followed suit.

As of Friday afternoon, only 17 probate judges were still refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, the Human Rights Campaign said.

The emergency petition lists Probate Judges Alan L. King of Jefferson County, Robert M. Martin of Chilton County, Tommy Ragland of Madison County, Steven L. Reed of Montgomery County and “Judge Does #1-63” as respondents.

The Alabama Policy Institute and Alabama Citizens Action Program and their members promoted the passage of the 2006 marriage amendment; some 81 percent of Alabama voters agreed to add language that marriage is a union between a man and a woman to the state constitution.

Judge Granade’s ruling said the marriage amendment violates the U.S. Constitution.

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