Allen’s decision finding support

Published 10:07 pm Tuesday, June 30, 2015

While Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen’s decision to take his office “out of the marriage business” may be drawing national attention, it appears to be falling on the right side of the law.

Allen stopped issuing marriage licenses in early February, shortly after a federal judge declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional. On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down same-sex marriage bans nationwide, paving the way for what proponents say is long-overdue marriage equality and what opponents say is an erosion of the institution of marriage.

Allen’s stand has been thrust into the national spotlight throughout the debate, as he was the first Alabama probate judge to stop issuing all marriage licenses as a way to avoid actions that he said would conflict with his personal beliefs and the beliefs of the majority of residents who elected him. He has been referenced and quoted in national media, from TV networks to the New York Times.

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Throughout it all, Allen has based his action on his interpretation the Alabama Code of Law, which states marriage licenses “may” be issued by the judges of probate of the several counties, to “opt out of” issuing marriage licenses.

On Tuesday, multiple representatives of the ACLU of Alabama were quoted as saying that probate judges like Allen are acting within the bounds of the law if they decide to stop marriage licenses altogether. It was a public affirmation from one of the groups fighting most vehemently for same sex marriage rights in Alabama.

Just what Allen’s decision will mean to Pike County remains a question.

In the first six months of 2014, the Pike County Probate Judge’s office issued 98 marriage licenses. The fee for a basic license in Pike County was $53, although costs could vary depending on services performed (such as wedding ceremonies).

Harry Sanders, county administrator, said he can’t quantify exactly how much revenue was generated from those licenses for the county. But Jimmy Barron, District 3 commissioner, said this week he doesn’t think the potential loss of revenue is significant. Instead, Barron has said supports Allen’s decision, offering yet another public affirmation of the move.

Ultimately, Allen and his peers across the state who opt out of the marriage license business, as they say, are likely to face legal opposition to go with the public pressure they have seen to date.

But for now, Allen remains confident the law is on his side. And he appears steadfast in holding to his decision.