Is Anyone in Charge in Alabama?

by HRC Staff

More than 40 counties denying marriage licenses due to “confusion” created by Justice Roy Moore and Governor Robert Bentley

WASHINGTON—After staying silent all morning—and tolerating Chief Justice Roy Moore’s lawless rampage against marriage equality over the past few days—Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has issued a statement. What does it say? Nothing. Nothing coherent, anyway.

“This issue has created confusion with conflicting direction for Probate Judges in Alabama,” Bentley says, in a written statement posted to the governor’s website. “Probate Judges have a unique responsibility in our state, and I support them. I will not take any action against Probate Judges, which would only serve to further complicate this issue.We will follow the rule of law in Alabama, and allow the issue of same sex marriage to be worked out through the proper legal channels.”

What makes Bentley’s statement particularly galling is that, outside Justice Roy Moore almost-hourly release of an anti-marriage fiat, there is virtually no sign of protest or discontent in counties where same-sex marriages are happening. In Montgomery, cheers and joy greeted the first couples to obtain marriage licenses earlier today. In Birmingham, a steady stream of loving couples filed through the courthouse. The only interruptions came when happy families paused to take photos.

In other words, the only thing “complicat[ing]” the execution of the law in Alabama is the stonewalling of individuals like Justice Moore, Governor Bentley, and the probate judges who are refusing to follow the binding implications of a federal court ruling.

“This is not exactly a ‘profiles in courage’ moment by Governor Bentley. When Justice Roy Moore chose to ignore a federal ruling, at least he was willing to own up to it,” said HRC Vice President of Communications Fred Sainz. “In fact, Governor Bentley is now just as complicit in kicking up lawlessness and discrimination in his state as Moore. That’s not leadership, it’s political cowardice.”

According to a recent count by HRC, as many as 40 counties may be denying marriage licenses to committed and loving gay and lesbian couples. Hours ago, the pro-equality legal team, Christine Hernandez and David Kennedy, responsible for the first district court ruling in Searcy v. Strange, filed a complaint in Mobile, seeking to hold a local probate judge in contempt for failing to issue marriage licenses to committed and loving couples there. HRC will follow the progress of that challenge as it develops.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to stay a federal judge’s ruling striking down Alabama’s ban on marriage equality this morning, dozens of committed and loving couples have married in counties across the state. 

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