US & Canada

Alabama gay marriage begins in some counties

Robert Povilat (L) and Milton Persinger kiss to celebrate the US Supreme Court's decision to not stop same-sex marriages in Alabama, in Mobile, Alabama, USA, 09 February 2015 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Robert Povilat (L) and Milton Persinger waited to become the first gay couple to wed in Mobile, Alabama

Judges in some counties in Alabama have begun issuing marriage licences to gay couples, despite the state's top judge ordering them not to.

Chief Justice Roy Moore said judges were not bound by a federal ruling lifting the state's gay marriage ban.

But many counties began marrying couples after the US Supreme Court refused to put marriages on hold.

It means Alabama becomes the 37th US state to legalise same-sex marriage, ahead of a nationwide ruling this year.

But local media reports suggested that at least 11 of Alabama's 67 counties refused to issue marriage licences.

Judge Moore has been one of the state's most outspoken critics of gay marriage. He called homosexuality an "inherent evil'' in a 2002 custody ruling against a lesbian mother.

But on Monday morning, the high court's ruling meant he was powerless to stop it.

In Birmingham, one of the first licences went to Dee and Laura Bush, who have been together for seven years and have five children between them.

They wed in a park outside the courthouse where a minister was performing ceremonies.

"It is great that we were able to be part of history," said Dee Bush.

Still banned...

  • Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas

Image copyright AP
Image caption Supporters and protesters of gay marriage came to the steps of the Jefferson County courthouse
Image copyright AP
Image caption One couple camped outside the Montgomery County Courthouse hopeful they would receive a marriage licence

Judges elsewhere were wary or defiant following the federal ruling.

Colbert County Probate Judge Douglas Rosser told he was accepting applications but would not issue licences until there was further clarification.

"There's a conflict, and I want to follow the law," Judge Rosser said. "But it is difficult this morning to follow the law."

One county judge refused to issue any licence not between "one man and one woman only, so help me God", while others declared they would not be marrying any couple - gay or heterosexual.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Rallies were held by anti same-sex marriage campaigners over the weekend
Image copyright AP
Image caption Gay rights campaigners have been urging judges not to follow Chief Justice Roy Moore's directions

On 23 January, Judge Granade said Alabama's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional and should be lifted.

The order was put on hold until 9 February to let the state prepare for the change.

It was the latest in a wave of similar federal rulings across the United States.

In November, however, a federal appeals court based in Cincinnati decided to uphold bans on gay weddings in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

The conflicting rulings among the appeals courts have prompted the US Supreme Court to hear the case later in the year.

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