MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Joe Babin and Clay Jones have their rings. After they get their marriage license in downtown Birmingham, a friend will officiate at their ceremony, which can be held outside thanks to mild southern winters.
Everything, Babin said, is falling into place for their wedding Monday, the first day gay marriage will be legal in Alabama.
“We knew we wanted to do it that day because it’s such a huge day for gay rights. It’s such a huge thing for Alabama to finally not be last in something that is progressive,” Babin said.
Alabama on Monday will become the 37th state where gays can legally wed unless the US Supreme Court orders a last-minute stay of a federal judge’s decision overturning the state’s ban on gay marriage.
The ruling brings gay marriage to the Deep South and to a state considered one of the Bible Belt’s most socially conservative. While gay marriage is legal in much of the nation, more than half of the 14 states still enforcing bans on gay marriage are located in the South, a swath of resistance stretching from about Texas to Kentucky.
Couples are expected to seek marriage licenses at courthouses across Alabama on Monday morning when the ruling by US District Judge Callie Granade that overturns Alabama’s ban goes into effect.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has asked the US Supreme Court to put aside the judge’s order because justices are expected to decide the issue of gay marriage on a nationwide basis later this year. As of Saturday, the high court had not ruled on the request.
Alabama voters in 2006 approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage by a 4-to-1 margin.
The Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions on Friday approved a resolution expressing “moral outrage, intense grief and strong disagreement over court rulings that have set our culture in a direction against the biblical definition of marriage.”
“We likewise call upon Alabama Baptists to pray for our state and nation and to stand strong in support of biblical marriage as the only form that should be legal in Alabama and throughout our nation,” Rick Lance, executive director of Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said in a statement Friday.
Pastor Franklin D. Raddish of South Carolina, who led a prayer vigil against same-sex marriage at the Alabama Capitol, urged Southerners to refuse to recognize the marriages that he called “from the devil’s hell.”
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore urged probate judges to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, saying he does not think judges are compelled to issue the licenses.
Monroe County Probate Judge Greg Norris said he expects most probate judges to issue licenses, although at least one has said he will refuse until he gets greater clarity from the courts. However, several judges have said they will stop performing weddings altogether so they don’t have to marry gay couples.