Feb 11, 2015

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has agreed to represent four same-sex couples in Alabama who have been denied marriage licenses.The couples reside in Baldwin, Barbour, Houston and Lauderdale counties. Each couple visited the probate judge in their respective county to request a marriage license, but all were denied.Americans United sent a letter to each probate judge today. The letters warn the judges not to follow a memo issued by Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has ordered probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.“[Y]our obligation to comply with the federal Constitution – which has now been interpreted to forbid discrimination against same-sex couples with respect to the issuance of marriage licenses – must take precedence over any contrary state laws or obligations,” reads the letter. “As administrative head of the Alabama judicial system, the Chief Justice is empowered to take appropriate action in administering that system, but he is assuredly not empowered to contravene the federal constitution or to direct others to do so.”U.S. District Judge Callie V. Granade struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage last month. A federal appeals court later refused to stay the ruling, as did the U.S. Supreme Court, clearing the way for same-sex marriages in the state.“Local judges simply can’t override rulings by a federal court,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “What’s going on in Alabama is an outrage, and it has to stop.”Ayesha N. Khan, Americans United’s legal director, noted that Granade, whose court is based in Mobile, will hold a hearing on Thursday regarding whether Mobile County’s probate judge is required to issue same-sex marriage licenses.“We are hopeful that Judge Granade will require the probate judge to issue same-sex marriage licenses and that other probate judges around the state will follow suit,” said Khan.“Whether these probate judges like it or not, same-sex couples have a legal right to marry in Alabama,” Khan added. “We would rather not sue to force these judges to do their job, but we will be forced to consider next steps if they persist in defying the federal Constitution.”Americans United was one of three groups that successfully sued Moore in 2001 over a Ten Commandments display at the Judicial Building in Montgomery. Moore lost that case and defied the federal courts. He was subsequently removed from the bench, although he won reelection to the slot in 2012.Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom