Federal court weighs in on Alabama county's refusal to wed gays

A federal judge in Alabama should make it "crystal clear" that gay marriages should be allowed across the state, an attorney for same-sex couples said Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade held the hearing amid confusion in Alabama, as many probate judges there refused to issue the marriage licenses after state Chief Justice Roy Moore said they didn't have to.

Moore gave his order even though Granade overturned the state's ban last month and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop gay marriages from beginning Monday.

At least 22 of Alabama's 67 counties are issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

Granade said she would rule soon on the request from gay couples who want her to force the Mobile County probate judge to issue a marriage license. Granade did not indicate exactly when she would rule.

One of the couples seeking to be married in Mobile, James Strawser and John Humphrey, said they were optimistic they would get a ruling in their favor within days.

"We're going to get our victory. At least we can get married by the weekend," Strawser said.

Their attorney, Randall Marshall of the American Civil Liberties Union, echoed that statement.

"We are hoping that she is going to do something that makes it crystal clear that an administrative order by the chief justice or any other or attempt, or ploy, to thwart her ruling, is not going to stand," Marshall said outside the courthouse.

Michael Druhan, an attorney for Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis, said Davis closed marriage license operations altogether rather than navigate what seemed like a legal minefield.

"If you stand still you might get shot. If you move you might blow up," Druhan said outside court.

Moore has argued that Granade's Jan. 23 ruling striking down the Bible Belt state's gay-marriage ban was an illegal intrusion on Alabama's sovereignty. He said probate judges are not bound by the decision because they were not defendants in the original case.

Davis, the probate judge in Mobile, closed his marriage license office altogether this week — even for heterosexual couples. He said he hopes Granade will give him clarification on what to do.