Federal judge strikes Alabama gay marriage ban; UNA students respond

For once, Alabama has not fallen to 49th place crying “thank God for Mississippi.” The “Heart of Dixie” became the 37th state to lift its ban on gay marriage Jan. 23.

While the ban on gay marriage was ruled unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Callie Granade, confusion arose with a press release from the Alabama Probate Judges Association. The release claimed same-sex couples are still unable to acquire marriage licenses in the state.

“As probate judges, our duty is to issue marriage licenses in accordance with Alabama law and that means we can not legally issue marriage licenses to same sex couples,” said president of the Alabama Probate Judges Association, Greg Norris. “The recent federal ruling does not change that.”

Despite the press release, Granade said the federal ruling over-ruled state law, meaning same-sex couples could receive marriage licenses immediately. Granade later instituted a stay, postponing the legalization of same-sex marriage until Feb. 9.

Senior Jacob Ezell said while this ruling is a step in the right direction, equality for LGBTQ members has more obstacles to overcome.

“I am so happy Alabama was not the last to have its gay marriage ban lifted,” he said. “However, LGBTQ equality is not fully achieved by marriage alone. There are still major protections that are needed in employment and other areas. We have a long way to go in reaching full equality, but this is big step.”

College Democrats President Erica Oman agreed and added one of the major obstacles includes the social aspect.

“I know that there will be those who choose to fight against this forward progress,” she said. “Change does not happen easily here at times. Some Alabama citizens, the majority even, may disagree with same-sex marriage because of their own personal belief or what they feel their faith teaches. It is their right to do so, however, it is neither reasonable nor constitutional to deny a civil right based off of those inclinations. Disagreement and denying are starkly different things.”

The case that brought federal attention to the state involved Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand, Mobile residents. Searcy appealed to federal courts for adoption of her partner’s 9-year-old son, who Searcy helped raise from birth.

Between the initial ruling on Jan. 23 and the stay which expires Feb. 9, gay couples cannot obtain marriage licenses and Attorney General Luther Strange hopes to emphasize state law precedence over federal rulings.

Senior Jacob Grandstaff agreed state law should hold more weight with Alabama.

“I think the ruling is an absolute travesty,” Grandstaff said. “In

2006, 81 percent of Alabamians ratified a constitutional amendment to strictly define marriage as between one man and one woman. There is absolutely no reasonable constitutional grounds for a judge to decide she has the right to legislate marriage laws in a state. This kind of ruling is damaging to constitutional rule of law and a usurpation of democracy and the will of the people.”

The age-old issue of federal government versus local government should have no bearing on issues of equality, Ezell said.

“I think gay marriage should be a federally recognized right,” he said.

“States should have the right to make many decisions, but they should not be allowed to practice discrimination, which is what a gay marriage ban is.”

The next steps to creating a state that is truly equal will include equal employment opportunities and tighter regulations protecting LGBTQ members in the workplace, Oman said.

“In order to have a thriving state economy, all workers should be able to participate fully, regardless of their sexual orientation,” she said.

“Marriage equality is a step in the right direction, but there is always more work to be done.”

College Republicans President Sarah Emerson declined to comment.