Alabama state judges are attempting to use a forgotten amendment to a 1961 segregation law to block issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Judges in nine Alabama counties have refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Judges declare that issuing licenses to same-sex couples violates their religious beliefs. “It is a religious freedom issue, but more than that I believe it is a constitutional issue,” said Nick Williams, a Baptist minister and probate judge in Washington County, Alabama. Williams is among many judges who have stopped issuing marriage licenses.

Judges in three adjoining Alabama counties have stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether, leaving 78,000 people without the ability to receive marriage licenses.

The initial reason for the 1961 law has been forgotten, but it says probate courts “may” issue instead of “shall” issue marriage licenses. The term “may” is interpreted as giving courts the choice to issue marriage licenses.

These Alabama judges are violating the law, plain and simple. This shouldn’t be an issue for the states to decide, as the federal ruling has been made. Those who violate that ruling should be fined or jailed. 

For more on this story, visit the Washington PostAlabama judges use segregation-era law to avoid gay marriage”

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at He is the co-host / guest host for Ring of Fire Radio. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced