Ethics: Christian Alabama Probate Judge Receives Same-Sex Marriage Application

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What would you do Wednesday!

Judge Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, recently defied orders from a federal judge telling Alabama probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Moore took his stance arguing that the decision to issue Alabama marriage licenses falls under his authority.

For today’s ethical situation, you, dear reader, play the role of an Alabama probate judge. You are a judge who is also a Christian with convictions that homosexuality activity and same-sex marriage are sins.

You just received Judge Moore’s orders the previous day not to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Today, however, a homosexual couple comes to the courthouse seeking a marriage license. The couple is excited about the federal judge’s ruling that they may marry each other in Alabama. The completed marriage application is in front of you. The couple is waiting.

What would you do?

  • Follow the federal judge’s ruling and issue the marriage license.
  • Follow Judge Moore’s reasoning and deny the marriage license.
  • Follow your convictions and deny the marriage license ready to resign if necessary.
  • Witness to the couple explaining that same-sex marriage and homosexuality are sins.
  • Or…

Here I blog…

Mark

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The above article was posted on February 11, 2015 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Les Prouty February 11, 2015 at 12:33 pm

This is a very prickly case. I have a friend who is a Probate Judge in an Alabama county. Probate Judges are charged with issuing marriage licenses I believe as your scenario indicates.

Now comes Justice Moore’s statement Sunday to judges in Alabama, ““Effective immediately, 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.”

What to do? I think if I were a Probate Judge in Alabama, Christian or not, I would choose “Follow Judge Moore’s reasoning and deny the marriage license.” Otherwise I would be defying the state constitution. The Supreme Court’s refusal to stay the temporary order does not overturn the state constitution.

But the time will likely come where the state will lose this fight. Then, the Christian has a decision to make. Issue or not? If his Christian convictions will not allow him to participate in the issuing of the licenses, he or she should “Follow [his/her] convictions and deny the marriage license ready to resign if necessary.”

2 Kevin February 11, 2015 at 1:30 pm

Regardless of ones convictions, one must issue the license. Can a vegetarian clerk deny a hunting license based on their beliefs? Can a Jewish clerk not issue a license to christians based on conviction? Can a clerk who thinks drinking alcohol is a sin deny the issueance of a liquor license? This is civil marriage, not religious marriage. Denting a fellow citizens rights based on religious belief is not the ay we do things in the USA. Thank you

3 Les Prouty February 11, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Kevin, I understand what you are saying. But does it matter that the judge is caught between the state constitution (and his state’s chief justice) and the federal government?

4 Anthony February 12, 2015 at 8:14 am

This particular case is a big legal mess. In the original case, the lesbian couple who filed the lawsuit sued the wrong person and the courts didn’t catch it and correct them. They sued the Alabama Attorney General, but he is part of the executive branch, NOT the judicial branch. The state probate courts handle marriage licenses. The federal judge’s ruling was that the attorney general “is enjoined from enforcing” Alabama’s ban on gay marriage, but he’s not the one in charge of issuing licenses.

Roy Moore, as the state’s Chief Justice, order the probate judges to not issue marriage licenses since the ruling did not apply to them. (And also because he is totally against gay marriage.). Regardless of his position on gay marriage, his was the legally correct position. The federal judge who issued the ruling even agreed with this when she was asked to hold the Mobile probate judge in contempt for not issuing a marriage license to the lesbian couple at the heat of the original case. The judge said she could not hold him in contempt because he was not a party to the original lawsuit or covered by its ruling.

So my take on it is to follow the law and not issue marriage licenses for now until the courts clean up the mess they’ve made and properly legalize gay marriage. Then you have to decide whether you can follow the law without violating your personal beliefs or if you need to resign from your position as probate judge.

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