Probate office denied request for legal advising

Published 4:00 am Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Commissioners on Monday thwarted Probate Judge Wes Allen’s request to use budget funds for potential legal representation in the ongoing debate over same-sex marriage in Alabama.

“With the exception of Robin Sullivan and Jimmy Barron, our elected commissioners chose to side with the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and countless gay and lesbian groups to say gay marriage should be the norm in Pike County,” Allen said on Monday. “I sincerely believe the decision that Commissioners (Joey) Jackson, (Charlie) Harris, (Homer) Wright and (Ray) Goodson made tonight to support bringing gay marriage to our county courthouse is 100 percent counter to the Christian values and principles of the people they were elected to represent. April 13, 2015 will go down as a sad day in the history of our community.”

Allen told members of the Pike County commission on Monday that he believes efforts to create a class action lawsuit could create conflicting court orders and require his office to seek legal representation and support.

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“There has been some new activity in the federal court of Mobile, in the Southern District,” Allen said. “The plaintiffs, which are the same-sex couples that filed to have all 68 probate judges in the state a class, (are) trying to certify all of us in a class action lawsuit. I don’t really know where that stands now, but it’s all kind of transpired now that the situation is fluid. If the federal judge certifies all probate judges as a class, making it a class action lawsuit, there may be a situation in the future where we may have two competing court orders.”

Allen stopped issuing all marriage licenses earlier this year as a response to the initial federal court ruling, which legalized same sex marriages in the state of Alabama. While some probate judges have embraced the ruling, others have refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, setting up the ongoing legal conflict.

Despite the ongoing statewide legal battle, commissioners voted 4-2 against Allen’s request.

“Our nation, our state and our county are at a crossroads of cultural values,” Allen said. “More than 80 percent of the voters in this state voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman. For the past several months I have found myself on the front lines of the battle to preserve that definition of marriage and I have received overwhelming support from the people of Pike County. I was shocked and disappointed tonight when the Pike County Commission voted against allowing me to continue to fight for the traditional definition of marriage.”

Jackson, District 5, asked Allen why the office had chosen not to issue licenses if Mobile County was the only county being named in the lawsuit. Jackson further stated that if Allen needed legal council, it should be provided to him through the Probate Judge’s association.

“Y’all needed to go ahead and sell marriage license to people,” Jackson said. “The only county right now that has an issue is Mobile. In other words if we don’t have to sell the same-sex marriage license because of what (state Supreme Court Justice Roy) Moore said, why don’t we sell licenses to men and women? We’re losing revenue, and on top of that the Probate Judges association should be responsible for your legal council.”

Allen, however, said denying of his request to move funds around in his budget at no additional cost to the taxpayers of Pike County, commissioners were supporting same-sex marriage. And, despite not getting the approval to move funds around in his budget, Allen said he would continue to fight to preserve the traditional definition of marriage.

“I will keep fighting for traditional marriage no matter if the County Commission provides me with legal support or not,” Allen said.