Probate Judges Gather in Orange Beach; Await Supreme Court Ruling

FILE - In this April 28, 2015 file photo, demonstrators stand in front of a rainbow flag of the Supreme Court in Washington, as the court was set to hear historic arguments in cases that could make same-sex marriage the law of the land. Gay and lesbian couples could face legal chaos if the Supreme Court rules against same-sex marriage in the next few weeks. Same-sex weddings could come to a halt in many states, depending on a confusing mix of lower-court decisions and the sometimes-contradictory views of state and local officials. Among the 36 states in which same-sex couples can now marry are 20 in which federal judges invoked the Constitution to strike down marriage bans. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

A decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on same sex marriage is expected later this month and no matter what it is, no group will be more relieved than the 68 Probate Judges in Alabama.

Those judges are meeting this week in Orange Beach. A third of them are in their first term and say they could never have imagined the chaos they would encounter

“When you take office this is not the kind of thing that you think you’re going to be facing,” said Greg Cain, Morgan County Probate Judge. “But it’s there, so you go with it.”

“When you take office you take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States as well as the Constitution of Alabama,” added Limestone County Judge Charles Woodroof..

But that is the crux of the probate judge’s dilemma as federal courts and the state supreme court gave conflicting directions earlier this year about same-sex marriage.

“Right now, I’m still doing heterosexual marriages,” said Pickens County Probate Judge John Earl Paluzzi.

Other probate judges, however, have handled the situation differently, leading to confusion from county to county. Mobile County hasn’t issued any marriage license of any kind since the controversy broke out this spring.

All Probate Judges are waiting for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling expected by the end of the month that could determine whether states have to permit and/or recognize same-sex marriage.

Whatever the ruling is, these judges hope it’s definitive.

“That’s what we’re hoping for,” said Cain. “Something that is very clear-cut, nothing that’s ambiguous that will put us back where we were.”

“I personally hope the decision is very to the point and doesn’t leave any grey areas where states might act otherwise,” said Woodroof.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling is expected the last week of June.

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