The Alabama Supreme Court on Tuesday pushed a state judge a big step closer to a serious legal bind on the issue of same-sex marriage. It extended to Don Davis, a probate judge in Mobile, its ruling last week barring the issuance of any more marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
Judge Davis, however, is awaiting word from a federal judge in Mobile over whether he — and other state probate judges — will be put under new orders to grant such licenses. Lawyers for a group of couples have asked District Judge Callie V.S. Granade to issue a statewide order to require all 68 probate judges to permit marriages for all couples who otherwise qualify.
The state’s highest court has been taken a hard line on enforcing the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, and issued an order March 3 — for all probate judges except Judge Davis — telling them to issue no more licenses in violation of the ban. It gave Judge Davis a chance to respond, since he had been told by Judge Granade to issue at least a few licenses, and had done so.
In its new order, the state Supreme Court (again, with one justice dissenting) did not attempt to disturb the licenses that Judge Davis had previously issued to same-sex couples. But it made clear that that was to be the end of it for him.
Judge Granade has already shown some willingness to expand the scope of her ruling that the Alabama ban violates the federal Constitution. She has taken no action so far, however, on the new plea to make that ruling binding across the entire state. Judge Davis has asked her not to take further action against him directly, because he said that would put him under two directly contradictory court orders.