Finally yesterday two more Alabama counties say they will issue wedding licenses following the Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. Both Houston and Henry counties had refused to issue any licenses because of gay marriage. After the U.S. Supreme Court on gay marriage nearly a month ago, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore advised Alabama probate judges to wait 25 days to see if the U.S. Supreme Court would allow for a new hearing. The change in Houston me Henry counties came at the end of a 25-day window in which the U.S. Supreme Court could have reconsidered its decision. Conservative groups in Alabama are still trying to challenge the ruling and are asking the Alabama Supreme Court to follow anti-slavery precedents from the 1850s and resist gay marriage.
Most Alabama counties already are issuing marriage licenses to anyone, gay or straight, though a few have refused to issue any marriage licenses at all, forcing people seeing a marriage license to go to another county. I personally think those probate judges should have resigned instead of inconveniencing their constituents, but Alabama law (stupidly) says that probate judges “may” issue marriage licenses but doesn't say they are required to do so.
“Considering the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Act in which Alabamians as well as Houston County residents overwhelmingly voted to define marriage as between one man and one woman, it can be reasonably concluded that on the whole, Alabamians and specifically Houston County residents do not support same sex marriage,” Houston County Probate Judge Patrick Davenport said in a statement. “However, after the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling last month and the expiration of the time allowed by law for a rehearing, it is now my legal opinion that same sex marriage is the law of the land and consequently, I am obligated to follow the law.”
The change was very special for two men in Dothan, the county seat of Houston County. Finally, Keith Ingram and Albert Pigg (pictured above) who had attempted to get a marriage license in Houston County several times in recent months got what they'd been seeking on Wednesday morning. The couple were issued a marriage license at the Houston County Administrative Building just before 10 a.m. Wednesday and were married immediately afterwards in front of the building.
“We’re happy that it’s finally come to this day, that love wins, and we’re full Americans (who) have every right that every other American has,” Ingram said. “I was relieved that we don’t have to take any further steps, that we could finally move on to bigger issues that are affecting our country. This is our day.”
Elli Canterbury, who officiated the wedding, said the moment was particularly emotional for her. “I’ve known Keith and his family for quite a while, almost eight years already, and I know they’ve had a long struggle to get to where they needed to be here,” Canterbury said. “Thank God (that) Judge Davenport saw the light, and I’m grateful for him that it happened. I can’t really put into words what it means to me to be here for Keith and Albert.”
Ingram and Pigg first attempted to obtain a marriage license on Feb. 9 after a Mobile Federal Judge ruled that the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. Since then, they've made numerous requests and attempts. Until Wednesday, Houston County was among about a dozen Alabama counties not issuing marriage licenses to any couples in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples had the right to get married.
Henry County also announced that marriages licenses will now be issued to all couples. Geneva and Pike counties are not issuing marriage licenses to any couples.
“Love does win eventually,” Pigg said. “It’s just a matter of how hard you fight for your rights to be a true American.”