An Alabama judge facing contradictory directives from a U.S. judge and the state’s high court on whether to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples said on Wednesday that his office will not issue licenses to anyone while it analyzes the conflict.
The announcement by Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis comes a day after the Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, underscoring the depth of opposition to gay matrimony in the socially conservative state.
The 7-1 Alabama high court ruling came roughly three weeks after U.S. District Judge Callie Granade’s decision overturning Alabama’s ban on gay marriage went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to put it on hold.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed this year to take up the issue of whether states can ban gay marriage. Its expected ruling in June likely will provide clarity on the issue in Alabama, as well as the 13 states where gay marriage remains illegal.
Davis was ordered last month by Granade to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples after his office had refused to do so in the wake of her ruling striking down the state’s gay marriage ban.
“We regret having to take this action but feel that it is necessary given the unprecedented circumstances that currently exist,” a statement posted on the probate court’s website said. “It is the court’s intent to comply with all laws governing its operations and to not discriminate in any manner against any person.”
Davis is among 68 probate judges in Alabama bound by the ruling, most of whom had been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
It was not immediately clear how the other probate judges will proceed but it is likely they will follow the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling, unless the U.S. Supreme Court offers specific direction to the contrary, said Ronald Krotoszynski, a constitutional law expert at the University of Alabama School of Law.
Among the probate judges who had not begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples was Elmore County Probate Judge John Enslen, who in a Facebook post applauded the ruling as recognizing what he described as the natural superiority of heterosexual unions.
“Man can pass a million laws and those laws will never make the two unions equal,” he wrote. “It is like trying to pass a law against the operation of gravity.”
(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky in New Orleans; Editing by Bill Trott)