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Alabama Probate Judges Association reverses position, says federal court decision applies to all probate judges

LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

Yesterday, after District Court Judge Callie V. S. Granade clarified her decision by pointing out that the Constitution requires same-sex marriage, The Alabama Probate Judges Association changed its stance, agreeing that probate judges across Alabama should grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples one the 14-day stay expires.

The Association had previously taken the opposite position, stating that the decision only applied to one couple and to only the non-recognition aspect of the ban. This had been contrary to the ruling itself, which specifically struck down the entire amendment and statute, which included both the recognition aspect and the licensing aspect.

Before the clarification order came down, there had been an intervening development: a same-sex couple who applied for a marriage license and was rejected won their case before the same judge.

The Association has said they are in contact with the Alabama Department of Health to discuss changes to the law:

“It is the opinion of the Association, on the advice of legal counsel, that until the stay is lifted, probate judges cannot issue marriage licenses to same sex couples,” Monroe County Probate Judge Greg Norris, the group’s president, said in a prepared statement. “However, on the occasion that the stay is lifted, same sex couples may apply for marriage licenses.”

Norris added that the association will encourage its members to follow the law. He stated that marriage forms may need to be modified to accommodate same-sex applicants. Those forms are created and distributed by the Alabama Department of Public Health through the Office of Vital Statistics.

Norris stated that the association has been in contact with the Department of Health to discuss potential changes.

There’s still no word from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on the request for a stay in either of the Alabama cases. The stay is set to expire February 9, unless the Eleventh Circuit or the Supreme Court grants a stay pending the outcome of the appeal.

20 Comments

  • 1. Wolf of Raging Fires  |  January 29, 2015 at 8:03 am

    Sure. It only took Judge Grenade to say DUH! for them to do it, but still. Good news.

  • 2. LK2013  |  January 29, 2015 at 8:06 am

    They had to be TOLD again but now they've got it.

    A$$holes.

  • 3. Chuck_in_PA  |  January 29, 2015 at 8:21 am

    Off topic, but interesting. Spotted this article discussing the in-fighting among the lawyers working on Marriage Equality cases and the dearth of funding for the lawyers representing the Michigan case at the Supreme Court. http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/features/2015-0

  • 4. F_Young  |  January 29, 2015 at 8:56 am

    Chuck_in_PA; "Off topic, but interesting. "

    Thanks for posting this, Chuck. It addresses a very important issue that hardly anyone has written about.

  • 5. guitaristbl  |  January 29, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Well duh, like they could do anything else. But that was theoretically the last "hurdle" towards the issuance of licenses once (and if) the stay is lifted.

  • 6. JayJonson  |  January 29, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Thanks for posting this. The infighting is distressing, but I have a larger question: why should it at this point cost $1,000,000 for this law firm to take DeBoer to the Supreme Court?

    One might also ask why this small firm took the case if they don't have the resources to follow through on it. And aren't they going to ask for costs, including attorneys' fees, if they win?

    I would also think that they should be consulting closely with the attorneys for the three other cases that will be at SCOTUS in April.

    Perhaps someone can explain why this process is so expensive at this stage? It is not as though anyone will be making new and startling arguments.

  • 7. Rick55845  |  January 29, 2015 at 9:25 am

    That was a very interesting article. Thanks for posting it. The infighting among lawyers is disquieting, but not surprising. What blew my mind is that the DeBoer law firm expects to incur $1 million dollars in expenses to argue that case before SCOTUS. Justice sure is expensive!

  • 8. Sagesse  |  January 29, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Two points.

    One. Ever since SCOTUS took the 6th Circuit cases, there has been a reckoning coming among the lawyers for the four cases, and whatever support they choose to bring in to make the best possible case. There will be a person (or a very small team) arguing the celebration question, and another person (or very small team) arguing the recognition question. The lawyers will need to agree among themselves who is best suited to represent them, and throw their support behind their chosen spokespersons. It may well get messy behind the scenes, and may spill out into the press.

    Two. I have sympathy for counsel for De Boer. The judge pushed them to challenge the marriage ban, and held a trial, which is a very time consuming and expensive exercise. That wonderful trial record that everyone is hoping to benefit from cost a bundle. It is not fair that a small firm should be out there financially exposed after doing all that work, and succeeding. It is also not fair that they should be cut out of the final SCOTUS step in the process because others are better funded.

    Don't know what the answer is, but infighting is unseemly and unproductive.

  • 9. JayJonson  |  January 29, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Your points are well taken. But the article says that they need $1,000,000 to take the case to SCOTUS. That does not seem very persuasive to me. Surely, preparing for the trial and the appeal at the Sixth Circuit would be more expensive than the filings and appearance at SCOTUS, especially since they seem very protective of their case.

    What expenses are involved at this point?

    I am also sympathetic with the counsel for DeBoer. But they have an obligation to cooperate with others at this point. I don't think it helpful of them to whine publicly that they haven't gotten as much money as they think they should have.

    I agree that the infighting is unseemly and unproductive and hope that it will end soon.

  • 10. DeadHead  |  January 29, 2015 at 10:45 am

    An issue many don't talk about, the cash cow cottage industries making money and doing very little. There are quite a few "not for profit" organizations, mostly spearheaded by just a handful of individuals, that don't really do much at all that are raising millions of dollars. Most often the activities being performed are on the internet. The CEO's and fundraising arms of these orgs reap from the money raised. All one has to do is look closely at the salaries/expenses on the 990s.

    From the report:
    “If you look on Facebook or something, you’re constantly being inundated by e-mails and replies from different organizations who will say ‘Support here if you want to support the right to marry in Michigan,’ and there’ll be language that will be like, ‘We’re SCOTUS-bound,’” she said, referring to a common nickname for the Supreme Court. “I’ll be like, ‘Why are you SCOTUS-bound? You don’t have a case that’s pending before the Supreme Court.’ It’s deceptive because people will give money and we’ll say, ‘Well that didn’t go to us’ and they’ll say, ‘Well, I gave.’ There’s only so much money that people have.

  • 11. Zack12  |  January 29, 2015 at 10:48 am

    I hope our side gets their act together before we go to SCOTUS.
    We don't need infighting at this important point in our history.

  • 12. BillinNO  |  January 29, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    The veins are bulging out on Judge Roy Moore's forehead, believe it.

  • 13. ianbirmingham  |  January 29, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-priceles

    A big victory at the Supreme Court isn’t priceless, after all. It costs somewhere north of $1,144,602.64. That’s what the video game industry spent [in 2011] to convince the court that California’s law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to minors violated the First Amendment. …

  • 14. Raga  |  January 29, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    But the attorneys here are representing their clients for free (pro bono), not at an hourly rate of $765. I'm still wondering why it will cost a million dollars (excluding attorneys' wages).

  • 15. ianbirmingham  |  January 29, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    I found it particularly ironic that after every major ME group tried to squelch AFER's Prop 8 case (which brought ME to millions of Californians)…

    https://www.aclu.org/files/pdfs/lgbt/ballot_box_2

    the article points out that AFER tried to do a takeover of DeBoer just like all the others…

    Well, at least they weren't trying to suppress the case, so that's a small improvement…

  • 16. JayJonson  |  January 29, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    One of the articles for DeBoer has clarified the article, saying that Lambda Legal and Mary Bonauto (of GLAD), who is now a co-counsel have helped them a great deal.

    from Towleroad:

    "While this article is mostly accurate in detailing our experience with the civil rights and gay organizations, it grossly understates the contributions of both GLAD and Lambda Legal. Mary Bonauto (GLAD) helped us the moment we asked her and has never stopped helping us. She is our co-counsel and deserves to be acknowledged. Throughout the case, Lambda has provided a great deal of assistance to us also. They helped us — any time we asked — to locate trial witnesses, to garner resources and research from around the country, and to help fund one of our expert witnesses (a $13,000 contribution). I was aware of a 'national strategy' to avoid the states in the Sixth Circuit, however, I don't recall either GLAD or Lambda ever discouraging us from filing or pursuing this lawsuit."

    (Read more: http://www.towleroad.com/#ixzz3QGH4dN91)

    I was very glad to hear this. Mary Bonauto is one of the great attorneys who have spearheaded the marriage equality movement. I find it very reassuring that she will be helping shepherd this case to SCOTUS.

  • 17. VIRick  |  January 29, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    Wolf, Judge Granade deftly applied the latest new judicial strategy, already being fondly referred to as the "Hinkle Maneuver" in honor it its creator.

  • 18. Wolf of Raging Fires  |  January 29, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    Got a legal wrinkle? Ask that eagle, Hinkle!

  • 19. sfbob  |  January 29, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    There may be less to this story than originally reported.
    Kerry Eleveld at Daily Kos published a piece discussing it earlier on Wednesday and has now posted a follow-up:
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/01/30/1361100/

    From Eleveld's follow-up post:

    "If you were worried about discord among the several legal teams that are strategizing on the marriage equality cases, you can put some of those fears to rest. I was contacted by Dana Nessel’s co-counsel on the Michigan case, Carole Stanyar, who assured me that two LGBT groups—Lambda Legal and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD)—are indeed supporting the Michigan-based team, which is one of five pro-equality legal teams headed to the Supreme Court in April. Stanyar said the two groups have provided resources for research, helped to locate trial witnesses, and in some cases donated funds for expert witnesses. Mary Bonauto, director of GLAD’s civil rights project, is also serving as co-counsel on the case.

    Stanyar called the original article by Friess was “mostly accurate” but said that it also significantly understated the contributions of both GLAD and Lambda Legal. I take this to mean that the Michigan legal team is still underfunded to some extent, but that they also have a far more cohesive working relationship with some of the LGBT legal advocates than the original article suggested."

    "Taylor’s recollection comports with Stanyar’s. “I don't recall either GLAD or Lambda ever discouraging us from filing or pursuing this lawsuit,” Stanyar said.

    Most of all, Taylor stressed that the effort to win marriage equality nationwide was not being scuttled by petty turf wars (my words, not hers).

    'There is no hostility between us,' Taylor explained. 'I think it is very distressing for there to be a narrative out there that paints us as distrustful of each other or not helping one another at a time when all of us are really focused on doing everything that we can to secure a victory before the Supreme Court. That is the genuine motive that animates all of us right now.' "

  • 20. Sagesse  |  January 30, 2015 at 6:43 am

    Very good to hear. Sounds like the spirit of the movement we recognize.

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