County Judges Stopping Marriage Licenses All Together: Should America Be Worried?
On June 26, 2015, history was made after the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that same sex marriage was a constitutional right. The decision was made after years of deliberation and debate of the Obergefell v. Hodges lawsuit. The ruling was met with not only praise and celebration of gay and lesbian couples all over America, but also support from the media and the majority of the United States.
However, not everyone has been willing to accept this new ruling, including many politicians across the country. Many county clerks across the Southern United States have not only been unwilling to accept the Supreme Court ruling, but have stopped issuing marriage licenses all together in their respective counties. The number of counties in the southern states that have stopped issuing marriage licenses in response to the ruling include 22 counties in Alabama, as well as several counties in Kentucky.
Many of the county clerks have spoken about their decisions, not hiding their disapproval of the Supreme Court ruling. Both Rowan County, KY clerk Kim Davis and Geneva County, AL Probate Judge Fred Hamic have stated that their decisions to stop issuing marriage licenses all together in their respective counties is based on their “Christian beliefs.” Judge Hamic even rationalized his decision by saying that, “The law says ‘may’ instead of ‘shall,’” stating that the law permits probate judges to opt out of issuing marriage licenses. Earlier this year, Elmore County, AL Probate Judge John Enslen was quoted as saying, “I will never perform a so-called same sex marriage. A federal court can put me in jail for life, and I will still never perform a so-called same-sex marriage.”
It is apparent that these judges are not only vocal about their disapproval of same-sex marriages, but are standing strong in their decisions to stop issuing marriage licenses indefinitely.
Even though these judges and county clerks are standing their ground on their decisions, there is a chance they may face repercussions for their actions. By continuing these actions, the judges risk being held in contempt, monetary fines, and even jail. The matter has already caught the attention of both U.S. District Judge Callie Granade, and Shannon Minter of the San Francisco based National Center for Lesbian Rights in Washington.
Two questions come to mind when watching these recent events unfold: How long will the probate judges of these counties be able to keep doing what they are doing and how does this effect politics in general? Although it is now a federal law that same-sex couples are allowed to get married, probate judges in Alabama and Kentucky have used a sort of loophole in order keep from taking part of the new law. Will these judges eventually give in to the new ruling, or will they have to be punished with fines and possibly be thrown out of office?
Only time can tell what will happen in the near future, but one cannot help but to wonder what other situations will cause these probate judges to deny rights for everyone just to keep rights from a specific group of people.
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