Although same sex marriages were legalized by the Supreme Court in 2015, not everyone agrees with that decision. Since that time, there have been many challenges and issues with that legalization – especially for Christians who do not support gay marriage due to their religious beliefs.
Christian judges in Alabama that oppose same sex marriage opted instead to stop issuing marriage licenses altogether as a way to preserve their belief of biblical teachings and avoid performing same sex marriages they don’t believe in.
Christian Judges Take a Stand
Small towns in the conservative, southern state of Alabama stood up for their religious freedom and came up with a new plan of action when same sex marriage was legalized in 2015. In fact, according to Alabama Judge Wes Allen, his town has not issued a single marriage license since February 9, 2015 — when a federal judge ruled against Alabama’s current ban on same-sex marriage.
When Chief Justice Roy Moore announced the state was not bound by the ruling of the federal court due to the wording of the existing law, things began to change in Alabama’s marriage license procedures, which included the voluntary permanent closure of some offices.
For Judge Allen, the decision to close the marriage license division was a personal one, and was made based on his religious beliefs. “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and firmly believe that biblical world view,” he said. “And I couldn’t put my signature on a marriage license that I knew not to be marriage.”
In addition, 12 other Alabama judges supported Allen’s decision to preserve their belief in marriage, and are operating under similar policies. Some of the judges decided to close their marriage license division as Allen did, while other judges are willing to sign the marriage license but will not perform marriage ceremony. These judges collectively decided that if no marriage licenses were issued at all – that meant that there would be no same-sex marriage licenses issued, which was the goal.
The state of Alabama was prepared for a barrage of lawsuits after several counties began refusing to issue marriage licenses, but many believe they have not yet been sued because of their specific marriage laws and the way they are written. “Alabama’s been one of the toughest states when it comes to access to marriage equality because of our marriage code and because the way it’s written for judges to choose to issue licenses or not,” said State Director for the Human Rights Campaign, Eva Kendrick. The wording of Alabama’s marriage law in no way requires that the state even issue a marriage license at all. In fact, the law says, “Probate judges may issue marriage licenses, not shall.” This gives the cities and towns of Alabama the option of whether they want to issue them.
More States to Follow?
Since the heated debate over same-sex marriage has been in the spotlight in Alabama, the state as well as several others including, Indiana, Montana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Missouri are contemplating whether they should completely suspend the issuance of marriage licenses for good.
The state Senate approved a bill that would stop the issuance of marriage licenses and requires instead, that a couple submit a form confirming that they have each met the legal requirements needed to get married. In addition, the couple must also record a marriage contract at the probate office.
Others oppose the legislation and argue when some say it does no harm, like Phil Williams — the only senator who voted against the bill.
“I just think it cheapens the value of the most sacred relationship in the world,” said Williams. “When you take marriage and you reduce it to a mere contract, it’s almost like you’re just doing nothing more than recording the deed to your property at the courthouse…you’re just taking the contract down there and the probate judge is just the clerk.”
~ 1776 Christian