Alabama is one step closer to allowing gay marriage, after a federal judge ruled on Thursday that same-sex could be allowed to marry before too long. However, the ban will still remain in place until next month, when the Supreme Court is expected to come with a verdict in the Obergefell v. Hodges case.
In the meantime, probate judges will still not be allowed to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples. However, U.S. District Judge Callie Granade reaffirmed that Alabama’s ban on gay unions is unconstitutional, and her ruling is valid across the entire state, not just in Mobile County, where she made her call.
“This injunction binds all the officers, agents, servants and employees, and others… who would seek to enforce the marriage laws of Alabama which prohibit or fail to recognize same-sex marriage,” Granade wrote. However, the future of gay marriage in Alabama depends on the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Granade’s ruling comes several months after she made a more radical decision. In January, she prohibited probate judges in Mobile County from enforcing Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages. This time, however, the judge decided that before the injunction will be enforced across the state, the judgment of the Supreme Court must be heard first.
The state attorney general, who opposed Granade’s preliminary ruling issued in January, declared himself satisfied to hold the ban until after the Supreme Court case. He said this way the judge avoided “a tremendous amount of chaos and confusion”, suggesting that he still hopes next month’s decision will allow state officials to keep their ban.
Civil rights advocates welcome Granade’s call, but some of them hoped the order would take immediate effect, as in Mobile County. “It certainly is a victory,” believes American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Randall Marshall, who is satisfied that the judge also offered an explanation for her ruling. He added that the defendants were only trying to delay the inevitable, as the ban would have been removed sooner or later.
“Certainly, all same-sex couples, not just our named plaintiffs, are entitled to equal protection under the law, and we would like that to begin yesterday,” the judge said on Thursday. She argued that the US Constitution is supreme, and Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis’ argument that he should be allowed to choose between conflicting federal and state laws. She instructed all other probate judges to do the same, and refused any delay requests.
Now, all Alabama has to do is wait and see what the Supreme Court thinks.
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