Marriage license: A legal right, not a matter of faith

Editorial Board

As the nation looks on, Alabama is still struggling with U.S. District Judge Callie V. “Ginny” Granade’s Jan. 23 same-sex marriage ruling.
Roy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, issued an order Sunday telling probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples nor to recognize same-sex marriages. Moore’s stance has been saluted by a chapter of the Mississippi Ku Klux Klan.
Many probate judges, including Pike County’s own Wes Allen, have been refusing to issue any marriage licenses. Allen and others have cited the conflict between same-sex marriage and their religious beliefs as a deciding factor in this choice.
If religious concerns are so important, it seems strange that the probate judges of Alabama haven’t had to stop issuing marriage licenses sooner. Surely some of these judges have issued licenses to divorcees though the Bible says in various places that to marry a divorced woman is to become an adulterer.
Some of these judges are also likely to have issued marriage licenses to people of different faiths or no faith at all. How could a judge so concerned with the Christian institution of marriage oversee the marriage of non-Christians?
While the theological conflict Allen and other probate judges face is understandable, if their faith so conflicts with the execution of the duties they were elected to perform, perhaps they’re in the wrong positions.
If a judge refused to try any criminal cases because the enforcement of one law was in opposition to his or her faith, it would be treated as a ridiculous dereliction of duty.
So is the decision of some probate judges to get out of the marriage business until they get their way. At best, it is an inconvenience to all the Alabamians they are meant to serve. At worst, it is an intolerable refusal to acknowledge the rights of same-sex couples.
Rather than ignore Granade’s ruling and force all couples in Pike County and more than 20 other counties in the state to seek marriage licenses elsewhere, they could better make their point and better serve their communities by resigning.
Judges maintain and apply the law. It is not their right or their duty to use their positions to enforce their religious beliefs.
Issuing a marriage license is a governmental matter, not a matter of faith. The probate judges are being asked to recognize same-sex marriage on behalf of the state, not on behalf of God.

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