Gay marriages to begin in conservative Alabama

Alabama will become the 37th U.S. state where gay people can legally wed unless the U.S. Supreme Court makes a last-minute order

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama on Monday will become the 37th U.S. state where gays can legally wed unless the U.S. Supreme Court orders a last-minute stay of a federal judge’s decision overturning the state’s ban on gay marriage.

The ruling brings gay marriage to the Deep South and to a state considered one of the Bible Belt’s most socially conservative. While gay marriage is now legal in much of the U.S., over half of the 14 states still enforcing bans on gay marriage were located in the South, a swath of resistance stretching from roughly Texas to Kentucky.

Couples are expected to seek marriage licenses at courthouses across Alabama on Monday morning when the ruling by U.S. District Judge Callie Granade overturning Alabama’s ban goes into effect.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put aside the judge’s order since justices are expected to decide the issue of gay marriage on a nationwide basis later this year. As of Saturday, the high court had not ruled on the request.

Joe Babin and Clay Jones have their rings and say everything is falling into place for their wedding on Monday in downtown Birmingham – the first day gay marriage will be legal in Alabama.

“We knew we wanted to do it that day because it’s such a huge day for gay rights. It’s such a huge thing for Alabama to finally not be last in something that is progressive,” said Babin.

Alabama voters in 2006 approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage by a 4-to-1 margin.

The Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions on Friday approved a resolution expressing “moral outrage, intense grief and strong disagreement over court rulings that have set our culture in a direction against the biblical definition of marriage.”

“We likewise call upon Alabama Baptists to pray for our state and nation and to stand strong in support of biblical marriage as the only form that should be legal in Alabama and throughout our nation,” Rick Lance, executive director, Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said in a statement Friday.

Pastor Franklin D. Raddish of South Carolina, who led a prayer vigil against same-sex marriage at the Alabama Capitol, urged southerners to use refuse to recognize the marriages that he called “from the devil’s hell.”

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore urged probate judges to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, saying he does not think judges are compelled to issue the licenses.

Monroe County Probate Judge Greg Norris said he expects most probate judges to issue licenses, although at least one has said he will refuse until he gets greater clarity from the courts. However, several judges have said they will stop performing weddings altogether so they don’t have to marry gay couples.

But Babin said he thinks people have an unfair view of the South. Rainbow flags advocating gay rights aren’t an uncommon site in the residential areas of Birmingham’s Southside neighbourhood where the couple have a hair salon. Their families, including Jones’ parents who are Baptist, are happy for them.

Tori Sisson and Shante Wolfe of Tuskegee plan to camp outside the Montgomery County courthouse in the hopes of being the first gay couple to obtain a license in Alabama’s capital city. Sisson said she didn’t believe it when the news broke out on Jan. 23 that the state marriage ban had been overturned.

“My phone, if it could have exploded, I think it would have. There was just the really overwhelming sense of love and affection from people who were happy for us,” Sisson said.