Judge Allen stands by decision

Published 4:00 am Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Since issuing a statement taking the Pike County Probate Office out of the “marriage business” Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen has fallen under scrutiny for his decision. But, while some oppose him, some elected officials still support him.

Since early February, the Pike County Probate Office has not been issuing marriage licenses, and Allen is choosing to stay with his decision to interpret 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.

“I am saddened that the United States Supreme Court ruled as they did, but this ruling does not invalidate Alabama Code Section 30-1-9, which states ‘Marriage licenses may be issued by the judges of probate of the several counties,’” Allen said. “The word ‘may’ provides probate judges with the option of whether or not to engage in the practice of issuing marriage licenses and I have chosen not to perform that function. My office discontinued issuing marriage licenses in February, and I have no plans to put Pike County back into the marriage business. The policy of my office regarding marriage is no different today than it was yesterday.”

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Troy City Councilwoman Dejerilyn Henderson, District V, likened the situation of Allen refusing to handout marriage licenses to the Civil Rights movement which brought equal rights for African Americans during the 1960s saying that thankful to finally see people who had worked so hard for their rights to be given them. However, Henderson said she was disappointed in the way a fellow elected official, Probate Judge Wes Allen, was handling the situation.

“We were elected to uphold the Constitution, which says we aren’t supposed discriminate,” Henderson said. “I think what he’s doing is discrimination. I think it’s skirting the law, because when I was sworn into office I was sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States and of Alabama. You shouldn’t be an elected official in my opinion if you can’t do what the constitution says you’re supposed to do. Now, we’re losing money because we have an elected official who refuses to marry anyone. He’s refusing to marry anyone and those are tax dollars being taken out of Pike County and into other counties because they don’t discriminate. I don’t think that’s an effective elected official.”

Contrary to Henderson, Pike County Commissioner Jimmy Barron, District 3, said he 100 percent supports Allen and his stance on not issuing marriage licenses.

“I actually support the judge on what he’s doing,” Barron said. “I support him 100 percent on what he’s doing. Everybody has got their view and everybody has their own opinion the issue, but this issue is really nation wide. This isn’t just about our county, it’s nationwide. Everyone has their own ideas and opinions on it.”

Even though money has become a central issue with Allen’s refusal to issue marriage licenses, Barron said he felt the county would not take such a huge hit for issuing them.

“I don’t think the revenue is a big issue here,” Barron said. “You’re not talking about a large portion of money. Every bit helps, that’s correct, and with the county, we need all we can get. But, I don’t think it’s going to be an impact of revenue that will really hurt us. I don’t think it’ll be a great impact on the revenue we’re going to lose. He’s an elected official, he runs his office as he sees fit. I support him on that issue for his decision. I support his decision and what he’s doing on this issue.”

Barron said not being able to purchase a marriage license in Pike County is certainly an inconvenience, but for those people wanting to get married he encouraged them to travel to neighboring counties.

“I just think we can overcome this,” Barron said. “I don’t think it’ll be that huge of a loss. I know it’ll be an inconvenience to the public of Pike County, for people who want to get married. They’ll have to go to surrounding counties our neighboring counties to purchase a marriage license. I know that’ll be an inconvenience to them, but I commend him on his stance for this issue.”

For January through June 2014, the probate office used a total of 98 marriage licenses. January the office issued seven marriage licenses, February the office issued 15 licenses, March the office issued 16 licenses, April the office issued 20 licenses, May the office issued 26 licenses and June the office issued 14 licenses.

Pike County Commission Administrator Harry Sanders said an exact revenue number from last year’s marriage license was not available since the Probate Office submitted consolidated revenue information.

“What we got this year was a consolidated piece of information from the probate office that was not broken out for each line item,” Sanders said. “So, we don’t have an exact number. It was broken out this year, but they haven’t been issuing marriage licenses.”