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More Alabama counties allow gay marriage despite objection

By KIM CHANDLER and JAY REEVES
Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - More Alabama courthouses allowed same-sex marriages Tuesday despite objections from the state's chief justice, but other counties still refused - prompting a new round of federal court action.

In Mobile, the state's second-largest city, the window that normally issues marriage licenses was closed as a gay couple waited. Whether it and others around the state would open later Tuesday was still unclear.

A lawsuit was filed against the Mobile county probate judge, trying to force him to give licenses to same-sex couples.

One of the defendants was Chief Justice Roy Moore, who ordered probate judges not to allow same-sex unions in defiance of a federal judge and the U.S. Supreme Court, which allowed the marriages to start Monday.

So far, couples can marry in at least 10 of the state's 67 counties.

"The dust has quickly settled, and it is clear to me that our federal constitution, consistent with the federal district court's ruling, will be interpreted to provide a constitutional right to same sex marriage on a national scale," Elmore County Probate Judge John E. Enslen said in a statement.

Enslen's county was issuing licenses Tuesday but hadn't a day earlier.

"Whether national or not, it now applies to Alabama," he said.

Robert Povilat and Milton Persinger were in Mobile, waiting to obtain a license. They said they would return every day.

"We sat and waited all day for them to open a window. They never did," Povilat said of Monday.

Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis said he closed the marriage license section of his office because of "conflicting orders" from a federal judge and Moore. Davis said he will keep the section closed until he gets additional clarification.

Moore said probate judges were not bound by the decision because they were not defendants in the lawsuit brought by two women seeking recognition of their California marriage.

"It's my duty to speak up when I see the jurisdiction of our courts being intruded by unlawful federal authority," the 67-year-old Republican chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court said.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Callie Granade overturned Alabama's ban on gay marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the start of gay marriages in Alabama.

Hundreds of jubilant couples received marriage licenses in Montgomery, Birmingham and other cities, making Alabama the 37th state where gays can legally wed.

Kelli and Lisa Day balanced toddlers on their hips after getting their marriage license in Montgomery. The couple has been together for more than 20 years and together have four children, ages 1 through 14. Kelli Day said she wasn't sure this day would come in her lifetime.

"We just want to be legal. We already are committed and have a family. But if one of us dies, our children are not protected," Kelli Day said.

Russell County Probate Judge Alford Parden said his office had turned away at least one same-sex couple because of Moore's order. Parden said he felt caught between state and federal court orders. "I think every probate judge in the state feels that way. ... It's an unfortunate event for all of us."

Gov. Bentley, a Republican and a Southern Baptist, said he believes strongly that marriage is between one man and one woman, but that the issue should be "worked out through the proper legal channels" and not through defiance of the law. He was also named as a defendant in the Mobile lawsuit.

The governor noted that Alabama is about to be in the spotlight again with the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was passed after civil rights marchers were attacked and beaten in Selma, Alabama - events chronicled in the Oscar-nominated movie "Selma."

"I don't want Alabama to be seen as it was 50 years ago when a federal law was defied. I'm not going to do that," Bentley said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.

"I'm trying to move this state forward."

___

Reeves reported from Birmingham.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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