Shoals officials issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Florence residents Rose Roysden and Beth Ridley await the opening of the courthouse doors Feb. 9 to receive their marriage license. The couple was told no licenses would be issued that day.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, local probate judges began issuing marriage licenses to all couples.

Courthouse officials at Colbert, Lauderdale and Franklin counties confirmed Feb. 13 same-sex couples could obtain licenses for the first time, and announced issuing to heterosexual couples had resumed.

“We’ve seen a tremendous amount of progress since Monday (Feb. 9), and we’re confident that we’ll see more early next week,” said Human Rights Campaign Communications Vice President Fred Sainz. “These numbers represent a seismic shift in favor of equality and justice. Resistance to happy, loving and committed same-sex couples getting married is quickly crumbling throughout the state.”

Sainz’s comments were made in reference to the number of counties that reversed earlier decisions to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses. As of Feb. 13, 47 of the 67 counties had begun issuing to all couples, according to data provided by the Human Rights Campaign.

Gay marriage officially became legal in Alabama Feb. 9. But, several counties across the state refused to honor a federal ruling after Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore issued a statement Feb. 8 saying they should not issue marriage licenses or marry gay couples the following day.

Many counties, including those in the Shoals, refused licenses to all couples and said marriage ceremonies would no longer be conducted.

Courthouse officials said they were waiting for clarification whether Moore’s mandate or a federal judge ruling prevailed.

Lauderdale County Probate Judge James Hall said he was researching whether the federal or state ruling took precedence.

Junior Payton Sumrall and senior Kerstin Miller said they question whether local judges had a seventh-grade civics class.

“They can fluff it up as much as they want to, but it’s obvious the federal ruling trumped the state,” Sumrall said. “They just didn’t want to issue the licenses to gay couples. If two grown individuals love each other, the government shouldn’t have a say in whether they can marry. That’s a basic human right.”

Junior Jacob Garner said refusing to issue the licenses to couples did not achieve anything.

“They just refused to issue to them because they were gay, but that didn’t change the fact they were gay,” Garner said.

When same-sex couples arrived at the Lauderdale Courthouse Feb. 9, Hall said they could complete applications for marriage licenses, but they would not be issued unless his research showed the federal ruling applied to all Alabama counties.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade issued an order in favor of several same-sex couples Feb. 13 and provided clarification that the order was intended for all Alabama counties.

Colbert, Lauderdale and Franklin county officials said they will no longer perform marriage ceremonies for any couples.