County issuing marriage licenses to traditional and same-sex couples

Beginning at noon Monday, June 29, as a result of last Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling legitimizing same-sex marriage throughout the country, the Blount County Probate Office began issuing marriage licenses to both mixed and same-sex couples, according to Probate Judge Chris Green. Green said marriage ceremonies will no longer be performed by the probate office for anyone.

“Our legal advice Friday was to delay until today (Monday) before issuing same-sex licenses, to give time for all the legal angles to be checked,” Green said.“As of today, we are complying with the order of the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said.

As a result of changing legal interpretations of court decisions earlier in the year, the probate office changed its policy on issuing same-sex licenses on more than one occasion this spring. On March 4, it suspended issuing same-sex licenses at the order of the Alabama Supreme Court, and has not issued them since.

Green said controversy may continue for a time on whether a county probate office may suspend issuing of all marriage licenses. The argument would center on whether state law positively requires probate judges to issue marriage licenses or not.

Green said he does not intend to be a part of that controversy, but would simply follow the law as given by the state Supreme Court.

“I feel it would be a disservice to citizens for me to decide not to issue licenses at all. Many people want their marriage licenses to reflect the county where they were born and live, and I will respect that,” he said.

Contacted for comment, Lester Memorial First United Methodist Rev. Barry Hallman said he doesn’t think secular authorities have any choice but to follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.

“Having said that, I don’t agree with that ruling,” Hallman said.“It flies in the face of thousands of years of civilization. There’s not a major religion in the world that would accept it.

“But the church is different from the civil authorities. We will not wed same gender folks nor will we have it done in one of our churches. Looking at it another way, it’s become apparent that when the church and government get too cozy, it hasn’t boded well for the church. I think this will move the church back toward its historic roots as a counterculture influence. And we can focus on what we’re supposed to do, which is take the message and gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world.”