Federal judge: All Alabama counties must allow gay marriage after Supreme Court decision



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BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — With a handful of Alabama counties still refusing to grant gay marriages even as they issued licenses for straight weddings, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that all must abide by court decisions allowing same-sex unions.

Meanwhile, gay marriage advocates said they would ask courts to impose penalties on the holdouts that refuse to relent.

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

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.

"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.

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," said Minter.

Minter said her group knew of seven of Alabama's 67 counties that were issuing licenses to straight couples but not gay couples early in the day, but the number dropped by one when Tuscaloosa County said it would issue licenses to anyone.

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

Granade's order came at the request of groups representing gay couples across Alabama. The judge, who previously overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage, put earlier decisions on hold to allow time for the justices to rule.

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. In Louisiana, Red River Parish may be the last refusing the unions.

In an emailed statement, Red River Court Clerk Stuart Shaw said his Christian beliefs may keep him from issuing same-sex licenses, and he was awaiting final word on a federal appeals court ruling.

Shaw said his office will eventually comply, with workers who don't object to gay marriage handling the licenses.

After the Supreme Court declared that marriage is a constitutional right equally held by all Americans, clerks in Arkansas and Mississippi resigned rather than be forced to sign the licenses of gays and lesbians.


AP writer Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans contributed to this report.

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