Etowah begins issuing same-sex marriage licenses

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By Sarrah Peters

News Editor

After confusing and conflicting messages from federal and state officials, some Alabama counties, including Etowah County, began issuing same-sex marriage licenses on Monday, February 9. 

Alabama’s state ban on same-sex marriages was ruled unconstitutional on January 23. After the ruling, Judge Roy Moore appealed for a stay until the Supreme Court decides on the issue later this year. The appeal was denied, but Moore encouraged probate judges not to issue the marriage licenses to same sex couples claiming that the licenses were inconsistent with state law. 

Moore also asked Governor Robert Bentley to take action against probate judges who issue these marriage licenses. Although, Bentley openly opposes the federal mandate, he said he would take no such actions. 

“I am disappointed that a single Federal court judge disregarded the vote of the Alabama people to define marriage as between a man and woman…I will not take any action against Probate Judges, which would only serve to further complicate this issue. We will follow the rule of law in Alabama, and allow the issue of same sex marriage to be worked out through the proper legal channels,” said Bentley in a statement released through his office.

The statement means that Bentley, while not punishing the judges that obey the federal ruling, is not enforcing the ruling either. As a result, many counties’ probate offices remained closed or refused to issue same sex marriage licenses. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 44 of Alabama’s 67 counties are refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Some offices, like in Mobile County, remained closed, while others just refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

After being turned away from the Calhoun County probate office, Julie and Lora Bailey of Piedmont traveled to Etowah County with their two young children. Mandi Long, an activist who got ordained through American Marriage Ministries and Universal Life Church after the federal court’s ruling last month, traveled to Etowah County, also, to marry them. The couple requested her services online.

“I said, I don’t care where we have to drive,” said Long. “This is happening.”

Julie and Lora Bailey received their license and were wed in front of the courthouse by Mandi. Another couple, Kim and Jennifer Wilkerson of Attalla, were  the first in line at the courthouse for their license, and asked Long to marry them as well. 

Kim and Jennifer met online in a chat room. Jennifer messaged Kim, and started a conversation. They have been together for 11 years. They have two children, a 17 year-old and a 9 year-old. 

“You know, after 11 years you’d think, could it really change? As much as it is the same, it seems like everything is different,” said Kim.

“I know, after 11 years, that nothing is going to happen between us. We’ve seen a lot; any relationship takes work. So nothings going to happen to us, but, at the same time, there’s something about having that piece of paper, that sense of security, that recognization that she is my wife, and she’s my wife,”added Jennifer. 

“Nobody can take that away,” finished Kim.

The wedding also gives Kim the opportunity to adopt the 9 year-old they had together, which the couple said was one of  the biggest reasons for the marriage. 

With the adoption, there will be the assurance that the 9 year-old child cannot be taken from Kim if Jennifer dies. 

The couple is religious, attending church with their children. Kim currently studies theology online at a Christian university. 

“I do not feel that the Good Lord put her in my path and me in her path for us to go to Hell,” said Jennifer. “You know when you do right, and you know when you do wrong. There’s that voice in the back of your head that says ‘This is wrong,’ but this is not. I don’t have that voice with her that tells me this is wrong and I shouldn’t do this.”

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