US judge: Alabama counties must allow gay marriage

2015-07-02 16:28

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Birmingham - With a handful of counties in the state of Alabama still refusing to grant gay marriages while issuing licenses for straight weddings, a US federal judge ruled on Wednesday that all must abide by court decisions allowing same-sex unions.

Even after the US Supreme Court's landmark ruling on Friday declared that marriage is a constitutional right equally held by all Americans, some authorities in Southern states refused to follow it. Some clerks resigned rather than be forced to sign the licenses of gays and lesbians.

US District Judge Callie Granade issued a brief order saying Alabama probate judges can't discriminate against gay couples since the US Supreme Court has ruled gay marriage is legal everywhere.

Also on Wednesday, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans instructed judges in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to wrap up gay marriage cases in their states in line with last week's ruling.

Granade's order doesn't affect counties that have stopped issuing all marriage licenses in response to the Supreme Court decision, but a gay rights attorney said other counties must treat people equally or face penalties.

Possible penalties

"We will ask Judge Granade to hold them in contempt if they'd don't," said Shannon Minter of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights in Washington.

Possible penalties include monetary fines, cost assessments and even jail time, but Minter said no decision has been made about which penalties to seek.

The Alabama Supreme Court has muddied the issue of same-sex marriage by granting time for opponents to voice their opinion about the impacts of such unions.

Since Alabama law says counties "may" issue marriage licenses, some probate judges have stopped handling marriage licenses altogether rather than let gay couples wed.

A dwindling number of local officials in other states continue refusing same-sex marriages.

Read more on:    us  |  gay rights

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