Local officials deny marriage licenses, dispute federal ruling

Yashinari Effinger (left) and Adrian Thomas were the first same-sex couple to be granted a marriage license Feb. 9. “This is a celebration of love and I’m so thankful for all of the support from the community,” Thomas said.

by News Editor Ashley Remkus and Managing Editor Kali Daniel

Rev. Zola Pickett of Universal Life Church in Tupelo, Mississippi stood with open arms and paper flowers welcoming same-sex couples that entered the Lauderdale County Courthouse Feb. 9.

Probate Judge James Hall refused granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples but allowed them to file applications.

Florence residents Beth Ridley and Rose Roysden were among those denied licenses.

“We feel really let down,” Ridley said. “It breaks my heart to think people do not approve of our love. It’s just like theirs.”

Hall said no licenses would be issued until it was clear whether state or federal court rulings prevailed on the issue.

After U.S. District Judge Callie Granade ruled Alabama’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional Jan. 23, confusion arose as to what rights, if any, gay couples gained. A stay was granted upholding the state’s ban on same-sex marriage until Feb. 9.

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore issued a mandate to all probate judges Feb. 8 saying they should not issue marriage licenses or marry gay couples the following day, despite federal rulings.

The U.S. Supreme Court confirmed Monday morning it would not stop same-sex marriages in the state.

“I understand it had been shown that the Supreme Court of the U.S. denied the stay; however, there’s still conflict of law at this point in time between the federal district judge and chief justice of Alabama Supreme Court,” Hall said. “Today we don’t have that clarification. I’m still working on the research.”

Representatives from Equality Alabama said the order from the U.S. Supreme Court trumps Moore’s mandate.

The golden rule is golden for a reason, Pickett said.

“I have seen a lot of distinct lack of the philosophy ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’” she said.

Richard O’Phillips and Michael Borden, both ordained Universal Life Church ministers, came in support of same-sex marriages at the courthouse. They both said they came prepared to perform marriages.

“If it’s one thing I want to say, it’s all acts of love and kindness are holy,” O’Phillips said.

Borden said Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore is going against the federal court’s decision, adding “he doesn’t have jurisdiction.”

Ridley and Roysden said they would travel to Jefferson County to obtain marriage licenses and become next of kin.

Although local probate judges refused to marry gay couples or issue marriage licenses, other courthouses across the state saw same-sex ceremonies throughout the day.

Hundreds gathered at Madison County Courthouse and Big Spring Park in Huntsville Monday to celebrate Wedding Week, the first week of legalized gay marriage in Alabama.

Caterers and volunteers celebrated the occasion 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day the week of Feb. 9.

“It’s a beautiful day,” said Yashinara Effinger, referring to more than just the weather.

Effinger and her wife Adrian Thomas were the first north Alabama couple to marry, and both said they felt the day was a joyous one worth the wait.

“This is a celebration of love,” Thomas said. “I’m so thankful for all of the support from the community. I believe all people should be able to love each other without stipulations.”

Spencer Williams, of Huntsville, attended the celebration to support the numerous couples that claimed the day as their wedding celebrations. With him came his son, 2-year-old Stark.

“I’m glad he will grow up to know this is normal,” Spencer Williams said. “And I’m proud I get to tell him he was here for it.”