Same-sex couples married in North Alabama

Same-sex couples married in North Alabama
First same-sex couple receives marriage license in Madison Co. (Source: WAFF)
First same-sex couple receives marriage license in Madison Co. (Source: WAFF)

MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - The first same-sex couples in Madison County were issued marriage licenses at the Madison County Courthouse on Monday morning.

The morning begin with a brief moment of tension - probate officials said a computer issue caused a slight delay in issuing the first license. But the glitch was soon put right, and moments later, the morning was filled with joyful cry after joyful cry from supporters.

Adrian Thomas and Yahinari Effinger were the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in the Huntsville/Madison area. The couple did not wait in line, since they had an appointment beforehand.

Supporters cheered outside the courthouse as Thomas and Effinger walked out with a license.

The party atmosphere continued from the courthouse grounds to nearby Big Spring Park.

Thomas and Effinger had their wedding ceremony there, complete with cheers and more than a few tears, as a part of "Wedding Week."

"Very excited to be here," Effinger said. "This is an awesome day."

"To be the first ones... it is a blessing," the couple said.

There was another couple who had an appointment through Wedding Week who received their license as well.

One couple from Cullman County even came to Madison to get their license.

LGBT advocate Melissa Hiley said she did not stop crying throughout the morning. The Huntsville native said she is in disbelief same-sex couples can now legally marry.

Hiley helped organize the wedding week that's going on in conjunction with the same sex marriage court ruling.

She says after fighting for LGBT rights over the last two and a half decades she's overjoyed to see how far her home state has come and encouraged about our future.

"I am so happy for the young because their lives are going to be completely different," Hiley said. "It's not going to be like it was when I was 16, coming out at Huntsville High School and First Baptist Church. It's not going to be like that for them. I'm just thrilled."

Some probate judges in the area have not been issuing licenses, but have been issuing applications, after Judge Roy Moore's ruling came out Sunday evening.

However, the Madison County Probate Office issued 60 marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday. By the end of the evening, officials said 42 same-sex ceremonies were performed at Big Spring Park.

As many as one out of three same-sex couples who married in Huntsville Monday had been refused an application or license in other counties.

The Southern Poverty Law Center released a statement concerning gay marriage in Alabama and Moore's latest ruling:

"Unfortunately, we are seeing reports of counties around our state closing their doors to couples seeking marriage licenses. This direct result of the meddling by Chief Justice Moore. He claimed that his order late Sunday night was made to prevent confusion, but confusion was his goal and he achieved it, at leas temporarily, to the detriment of same-sex couples in our state. The probate judges who continue to deny same sex couples their constitutional rights will likely face expensive lawsuits." - SPLC President Richard Cohen

Madison County Probate Judge Tommy Ragland said he had no comment on the issuance of licenses.

"We're issuing them. It's just another day to me," Ragland said.

Governor Robert Bentley issued a statement on the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses in Alabama:

“The issue of same sex marriage will be finally decided by the U.S. Supreme Court later this year,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “I have great respect for the legal process, and the protections that the law provides for our people. I am disappointed that a single Federal court judge disregarded the vote of the Alabama people to define marriage as between a man and woman.

“I agree with the dissenting opinion from U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia when they stated, ‘Today's decision represents yet another example of this Court's cavalier attitude toward the States. Over the past few months, the Court has repeatedly denied stays of lower court judgments enjoining the enforcement of state laws on questionable constitutional grounds.'

“This issue has created confusion with conflicting direction for Probate Judges in Alabama. Probate Judges have a unique responsibility in our state, and I support them. I will not take any action against Probate Judges, which would only serve to further complicate this issue.

“We will follow the rule of law in Alabama, and allow the issue of same sex marriage to be worked out through the proper legal channels.”

The first traditional marriage to be performed as part of "Wedding Week" will be held Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

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