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Southern Comfort on Marriage

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By Tony Perkins

Politicians in other states may roll over and play dead as the federal courts trample their laws, but not Alabama! There’s an organized resistance developing in the Deep South, and it might just be the turning point on marriage that many Americans have been waiting for.

Late last night, Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore began rallying state probate judges under his jurisdiction with a 27-page order drawing a line at the courthouse door over same-sex “marriage.” “Effective immediately,” Moore said in a warning shot across the state, “no probate judge of the state of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama probate judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent with the Alabama Constitution.”

The memo, which hit the wire a little after 8:00 p.m. Sunday, paved the way for a national showdown between Alabama and the federal courts. While the Left scoffed Moore’s influence, the Chief Justice was quietly gaining momentum. Liberals like the ACLU’s Susan Watson told reporters yesterday that she doubted Moore’s order would hold water: “I don’t think the probate judges in Alabama are going to defy a federal judge’s order.”

Think again. Minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court gave the green light to issue wedding licenses in Alabama, most probate offices started turning down license requests. From Marshall, Franklin, and Lawrence Counties to Jackson, Tuscaloosa, and Dekalb Counties, dozens of judges sent couples home empty handed. Caught between the state’s courts and a federal judge, most offices are issuing their own stay.

In Limestone County, workers wouldn’t budge. After the doors opened at 8:30 a.m., Probate Judge Hardy McCollum invited the contingent of media and locals into his office and explained, “The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court gave some direct orders to the probate offices that we should not and are not to issue same-sex marriage licenses. He being the chief administrative and judicial officer for the state of Alabama, we are held to his order and we’re going to comply with his order.”

A similar scenario played out in Elmore County, where notices were hung on office doors explaining, “This policy of not issuing same-sex marriage licenses will remain in effect pending further instructions to the contrary…” Elmore’s probate judge, John Enslen, left little doubt where he stood on the issue, taking a courageous stand — even if it costs him his job. “I will never perform a so-called same-sex marriage,” he wrote. “A federal court can put me in jail for life, and I will still never perform a so-called same-sex marriage. As a believer in the Word of God… I cannot in good conscience participate in a purported marriage ceremony which I strongly believe would profane the sacred institution of marriage.”

Before people could accuse Elmore of ill-will toward homosexuals, the judge made it clear: “This is not about hating people. Each of us needs to treat every other human being with dignity and respect, regardless of our diametrically opposing viewpoints on this divisive issue. But tolerance is a two-way street. Either there is tolerance for all or there is tolerance for none. I want tolerance for my personal religious viewpoint.”

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.

(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)

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