County not selling same-sex marriage licenses yet

Published 9:28 am Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Whether or not the Escambia County Probate Office remains in the marriage license business remains to be seen, “but as of right now, we’re not in the same-sex marriage license business,” Judge Doug Agerton said Tuesday.

Agerton’s position came after last week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that same-sex couples have a right to marry nationwide. It was a historic decision that invalidates gay marriage bans in more than a dozen states — including Alabama.

Initially, Agerton said his office would begin issuing same-sex licenses Monday at 10 a.m. However, he — and many other probate judges statewide — is now waiting 25 days for the Alabama Supreme Court to ask for reconsideration.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We got word (Monday) that the state Supreme Court stated they had 25 days to come up with an appeal,” Agerton said. “During that time, they suggested to us to not sell any same-sex marriage licenses.

“It wasn’t an order,” he said. “It used all kinds of terms but what it amounts to is they are looking for any way that something can be changed. It said you don’t have to sell the same-sex licenses; that we’re asking you to hold off until we have our day in court.”

Agerton said Friday his office fielded a number of calls from same-sex couples looking to wed. However, on Monday, that number flat-lined.

“Most of them were from Florida,” he said of the inquiries. “We have several that said they were from Escambia County — which is our requirement to get any marriage license.”
Agerton said his office will issue a marriage license for heterosexual couples looking to wed.

“But you’re going to have to show your driver’s license to prove that one of you lives in Escambia County,” he said.

State law says that probate judges “may” issue marriage licenses, meaning they aren’t required to issue them. Several judges have cited that provision as they ponder what to do.

“It doesn’t say ‘shall,’ and I think that word may be the determining factor,” Agerton said. “Some probates have shut down their whole marriage license division. I’m going to have to make a decision between now and then on how I’m going to handle the whole thing.”

Brewton Standard publisher Stephanie Nelson wrote this story.