June 27, 2015

To avoid marrying gay couples, some Alabama counties have stopped marrying everyone

Some Alabama counties have found a bizarre trick to avoid the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling: They're not issuing marriage licenses to anyone at all.
Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen explained in a statement to's Greg Phillips:
I am saddened that the United States Supreme Court ruled as they did but this ruling does not invalidate Alabama Code Section 30-1-9, which states 'Marriage licenses may be issued by the judges of probate of the several counties.' The word 'may' provides probate judges with the option of whether or not to engage in the practice of issuing marriage licenses and I have chosen not to perform that function. My office discontinued issuing marriage licenses in February and I have no plans to put Pike County back into the marriage business. The policy of my office regarding marriage is no different today than it was yesterday.
The idea is that Pike County and other counties doing this aren't technically discriminating against same-sex couples' marriage rights because they're not allowinganyone, gay or straight, to marry. That seems likely to backfire once opposite-sex and same-sex couples alike start showing up at the court to marry. But these kinds of harsh tactics aren't unusual for a state that's historically shown the lowest levels of support for marriage equality, and where the chief justice previously ordered probate judges to essentially disobey a federal ruling in favor of marriage equality.
But some places in Alabama, like Mobile County and Coffee County, are currently obeying the Supreme Court's Friday ruling and marrying same-sex couples. So, at the very least, gay and lesbian couples can cross county lines to get their marriage licenses even if more probate judges take up Pike County's trick.


  1. Why does one need a license to get married, anyway?

  2. So we can appreciate them for giving you such privilege.

  3. The purpose of a marriage license (which, like all licenses is voluntary) is to give State appointed judges jurisdiction to arbitrarily rule on legal disputes arising from marriages (like divorce and child custody cases) without juries being involved. Whereas, legal disputes arising from "common law" marriages (where no license is involved) necessitates a jury trials if either party to the contest insist upon it.