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Local probate judge awaits ruling on same-sex marriages

Chilton County Probate Judge Bobby Martin is waiting to see the outcome of a court decision regarding gay couples in Alabama.

The recent 14-day stay allows Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to appeal a decision from U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Ginny Granade, who struck down Alabama’s ban on gay marriage Jan. 23.

“At this point, we just have to wait and see what happens,” Martin said. “The whole thing really puts probate judges in Alabama in a very interesting position.”

Currently, if a gay couple in Chilton County wants to be legally married, Martin said they would not be issued a marriage license.

If the federal judge’s ruling isn’t overturned, Martin said his office could be required to issue marriage licenses to gay couples on Feb. 9.

“I hope the Supreme Court will be very careful with what they do with this,” Martin said. “I don’t mind saying that I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think if the federal judge’s ruling was not overturned, it would make things difficult.”

On Jan. 23, Granade ruled that Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban violated the U.S. Constitution.

On Monday, Strange filed an appeal and a motion to stay a federal court order overturning Alabama’s definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

The stay was filed in the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, according to a release from Strange’s office.

The actions follow the Attorney General’s request to stay the U.S. District Court’s Jan. 23, ruling.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade of Mobile granted the stay request on Jan. 25, for a period of 14 days to allow the state of Alabama time to appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“My office has filed an appeal and a motion to stay the federal District Court’s decision, and we are preparing our case to defend Alabama’s laws prohibiting same-sex marriage,” Strange said in a release. “Unfortunately, the District Court’s ruling to strike down Alabama’s marriage laws has created uncertainty and confusion among the public over the law. My office has moved quickly to bring the issue before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to ensure that Alabama’s laws are defended. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to address the issue of same-sex marriage in a few months.”

Granade stated in her ruling that there was “no law prohibiting infertile couples, elderly couples or couples who do not wish to procreate from marrying.”

The ruling went on to say, “nor does the state prohibit recognition of marriage between such couples from other states.”

On Wednesday, the Alabama Probate Judges Association said until the stay is lifted, probate judges in Alabama could not issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.

However, if the stay is lifted, the association would encourage its members to follow the law in issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.

The Chilton County Probate Judge’s Office currently issues marriage licenses and performs wedding ceremonies for heterosexual couples on a daily basis.

Martin said he has never had a gay couple request a marriage license from his office.

“I don’t know how things will end up, but it might get to the point where we do away with performing wedding ceremonies,” Martin said. “I just don’t know right now. We are waiting at this point to find out what will happen next.”