On Monday, the state of Alabama began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A defiant Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, Roy Moore, demanded that probate judges refuse to grant the licenses. Despite Moore’s strenuous objections, probate judges began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday morning. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the Alabama Attorney General’s last ditch attempt to halt same-sex marriages from taking place.
The high court ruled 7-2 that the state must comply with a January ruling, by Federal Judge Callie V.S. Granade, allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in Alabama. Only Justices Thomas and Scalia dissented. Even a 3-2 majority of conservatives on the court favored upholding the federal judge’s ruling to permit same-sex marriages. Justices Alito, Kennedy, and Roberts joined the four more liberal judges on the Court, in supporting the decision.
Alabama’s top elected officials, Governor Robert Bentley (R), and Attorney General Luther Strange (R), joined Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, in fighting the ruling. However, their fight was in vain, as couples across Alabama are receiving marriage licenses today. Alabama becomes the 37th state to legalize same-sex marriages.
While the fight for LGBTQ equality goes way beyond the freedom to marry, at least on that specific issue, the rate of progress has been dramatic. Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage on May 17, 2004. A little over a decade later, the states have tipped like dominoes, one after another. Alabama, nestled deep in the heart of the Bible Belt, is a state where gay marriages would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.
Although marriage equality came to Alabama on Monday, the victory was unevenly achieved. While same-sex weddings were performed in some counties, other counties refused to issue licenses. Monday was a confusing day for some couples. Baldwin County, for example, stopped issuing any marriage licenses, so that they would not have to issue a license to a gay or lesbian couple.
Nevertheless, even as many Alabama elected officials and judges tried to stand defiantly against marriage equality, the march of progress continued in the face of opposition. Like George Wallace standing in a school house door half a century ago, some Alabama officials may choose to plant their feet on the wrong side of history. But it won’t matter. Same-sex marriage has arrived in Alabama. The arc of the moral universe is bending towards justice, and on the issue of marriage equality, it is bending fast. The tide has turned, even in the Crimson red state of Alabama. Roll tide.