A new decision in Alabama has brought more clarity to the legal chaos that has played out since marriage equality took effect on Monday. Federal District Judge Callie V. S. Granade ruled Thursday that Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis cannot refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as he has all week.
“Probate Judge Don Davis is hereby ENJOINED,” Granade ordered, “from refusing to issue marriage licenses to plaintiffs due to the Alabama laws which prohibit same-sex marriage. If Plaintiffs take all steps that are required in the normal course of business as a prerequisite to issuing a marriage license to opposite-sex couples, Judge Davis may not deny them a license on the ground that Plaintiffs constitute same-sex couples or because it is prohibited by the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act or by any other Alabama law or Order pertaining to same-sex marriage.”
The case was brought by the same couple who originally filed suit to marry within the state, joined now by three other couples who also wish to marry. Because they were challenging Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage directly, Davis was not originally included in the suit. Thus, Davis did not believe that Granade’s ruling applied to him.
This week, Davis separately sought clarity from the Alabama Supreme Court, noting that Chief Justice Roy Moore had dictated that probate judges not issue licenses to same-sex couples. With Moore recusing, the other eight justices declined to respond, noting that only the governor or legislators could ask for such oversight.
Technically, Granade’s order only applies to Davis and not probate judges in other counties. Still, as Granade even warned in her own clarification of her original ruling, any probate judge could likewise be named in a new complaint and forced to issue licenses. The ruling may inspire other probate judges to follow suit rather than endure their own legal challenges.