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National

Alabama County Stops Issuing Marriage Licenses Altogether

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

That day is still on hold for same-sex couples who live in parts of Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. Several counties have not yet issued marriage licenses for same-sex weddings. One county in Alabama has stopped issuing marriage licenses to any couple. That decision is based on one word in Alabama law. Troy Public Radio's Kyle Gassiott reports.

KYLE GASSIOTT, BYLINE: On Friday, a number of probate courts across Alabama began issuing same-sex marriage licenses again. But in Pike County, Ala., marriage licenses haven't been issued to gay or straight couples since February, in protest of an earlier court decision that briefly legalized gay marriage in the state. Judge Wes Allen sits on the bench at the court in Pike County. On Friday, he issued a statement similar to that of Chief Justice Roy Moore, who believes the Supreme Court has overstepped its bounds.

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CHIEF JUSTICE ROY MOORE: I think it's a serious assault on religious liberty. I don't think it conforms to the Constitution. The word marriage is not in the Constitution, and certainly, same-sex marriage is not in our history or tradition.

STEVEN L. REED: I thought he was wrong then. I said that he was wrong then. And then the Supreme Court has effectively backed that up.

GASSIOTT: That's Steven L. Reed, the probate judge in Montgomery County. His court, which is an hour's drive from Pike County, began issuing licenses in February against Moore's advice. Reed says it's the word may in Alabama's law that's allowing Judge Allen in Pike County to turn away all couples when they apply for a license.

REED: In the code that it says that probate judges may issue marriage licenses, I don't think there's something that says a probate court has to do that. It's just something that has been going on for decades now.

GASSIOTT: Niven and Tim Krowe, a heterosexual couple who live in Pike County, experienced the effects of Judge Allen's decision firsthand when they went to apply for a marriage license in May. Niven says she takes Judge Allen's decision personally.

NIVEN KROWE: I feel like, I pay my taxes, I'm a good citizen. I do my job to make my community better, but my community is not turning around and serving me. They're just taking my tax money and that's it.

GASSIOTT: The Krowes ended up driving to Montgomery to get married. Judge Wes Allen was not available for comment on Friday, but in a written statement he said that despite the Supreme Court's ruling, he has no plans to put Pike County back in the marriage business for any couple - gay or straight. For NPR News, I'm Kyle Gassiott in Montgomery. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.