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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin Fall 2015

Same Sex Marriage “WE TALKED IN LAW SCHOOL ABOUT THE POTENTIAL FOR GAY MARRIAGE BECOMING LEGAL BUT FEW PREDICTED THE MOMENTUM WOULD BUILD SO QUICKLY NATIONWIDE...” but few predicted the momentum would build so quickly nationwide, and I was certainly astounded when I got a call on a Friday night that Alabama’s ban had been struck down, making it the 37th state in the nation. I felt sure we were barreling toward 49th or 50th. So, a drive to Mobile to celebrate such a thing as that isn’t so bad, even if it means an early morning and a couple of tanks of gas. I’d help make sure things went smoothly, congratulate our clients, and likely be back for dinner. And when I left in the late night/early morning of February 9, 2015, the day the stay Judge Granade had imposed to allow clerks’ offi ces time to adjust forms to allow samesex marriage to begin was lifted, I headed down 65-South to an unfamiliar probate offi ce to lay eyes for the fi rst time in person on clients celebrating a ritual couples have found alternately meaningful and a hassle for many years before: the procurement of a marriage license. I’ll admit disappointment to fi nd my clients hadn’t made the front of the line. A quiet male couple sat bearing small rainbow pins and boutonnieres in chairs placed squarely before a marriage license window. But a wrinkle had developed the night before, as Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore had issued an Administrative Order to the state’s probate judges prohibiting issuance of samesex marriage licenses. Many counties, including my home county of Jeff erson, were proceeding with issuance of licenses and even performing ceremonies. I would later see photos of couples joyously celebrating splashed on newspapers and web coverage. Rainbow fl ags and sunshine and smiling faces abounded back home. But there was no joy, as the famous Th ayer baseball poem goes, in Mudville. In what increasingly seemed a narrow hallway of a Mobile County courthouse, the windows stayed closed, and the time crept. Even after an amazing moment of stunned celebration of the news that the United States Supreme Court had denied the Governor and Attorney General’s motion to stay Granade’s ruling – and by a 7-2 majority, no less -- we seemed to somehow be striking out. Christine, David, and I met with Judge Don Davis’s gracious Chief of Staff and Chief Clerk, who had prepared the week before to begin issuing same-sex licenses but explained that the judge was awaiting advice from his own lawyers on how to proceed in light of the instruction from Moore. Excited couples and their supportive friends and family grew restless, and hope increasingly gave way to anger. I talked with our media representatives; I talked with counsel. I talked with those gathered in a hall that never expected to need so many chairs. Supporters stopped in to bring food, share signs and kind words. A small child handed out tiny cupcakes to couples expected to be newlyweds. Bailiff s kindly requested quiet for those working and directed the weary to restrooms and vending machines, helped lawyers secure space to make phone calls and check in with court staff . Judge Davis at some point circulated a memo announcing that license issuance had been suspended for all couples. Th e wind simultaneously left sails and picked up. Th ough none of us present there had accomplished the goal of fi rst-day weddings, the energy of that intention seemed almost to harness itself. Th e momentum swelled, and those of us fi ghting for marriage and marriage recognition for samesex couples could clearly see that work was to be done and attempted to chart the course. I looked at the embattled faces of those for whom we were fi ghting, and though long sympathetic to this cause, realized for the fi rst time in talking with this group of people the true length and depth of the raw indignity of being turned away for something your neighbor freely receives. We rolled up our sleeves. I was on calls with lawyers far more capable than I, who could quote chapter and verse about what had happened in this or that state prior. I realized fully the role local coun- Birmingham Bar Bulletin/ Fall 2015 13


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin Fall 2015
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