UPDATED: Same-sex couple weds outside of Lee County Courthouse
Justin and Shawn Williams of Salem, decided they would be trailblazers as they walked up to Lee County Courthouse on Monday, Feb. 9, planning to get their marriage license after being together for seven years.
At the courthouse, they found Lee County Probate Judge Bill English was refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore issued an order Sunday night, Feb. 8, banning probate judges from issue marriage licenses, even though the order contradicted a Jan. 23 ruling by U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade.
"I am complying with the directive from the chief justice," English said. "I received an order last night. It's the only direct order I've received in this situation."
English said to the couple as soon as he gets clarification he would modify his position, but he was not going to contradict the chief justice.
"(Moore) is the chief of the Alabama unified judicial system of which we're a part," English said. "While I may have been critical of Judge Moore's defiance of a federal judge, I'm not going to do the same thing and defy his order."
Moore was removed as Alabama Supreme Court chief justice in 2003 when he defied a federal court ordering him to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Supreme Court building. Moore was re-elected as chief justice in 2012.
English met the couple personally at the probate office.
"I'm sorry for the inconvenience," English said. "It's not fair. I'm very disappointed in an 8 o'clock Sunday night ruling. I'm also very disappointed in a 5 o'clock Friday afternoon ruling. Those folks are not very appreciative of the position they're placing us in. Us being every [probate] judge in the state."
David Floyd, pastor at Marvyn Parkway Baptist Church, was at the courthouse and agreed with Moore's order.
"We find that when two men or two women try to create a union, which they cannot do anyway, as a married couple, that is an abomination in the sight of God," Floyd said. "Leviticus 18:22 tells us that. Romans 1 says that it is an unseemly practice, says that it's an unclean practice and says it's the evidence of a reprobate mind. You'll find that Sodom and Gomorra was destroyed for the sin of sodomy. And so therefore, we need to stand in this hour so that our country will not go down the same route."
Supporters of same-sex marriage had showed up at the courthouse as well.
Angela Farmer, who is an ordained pagan minister, said she didn't know the Williamses when she arrived at the courthouse, but offered to marry them.
"I figured they've waited long enough, and they shouldn't wait any longer to kiss their spouse," Farmer said.
Erin Crozier, graduate student in counseling psychology, and Ashely Hudson, graduate student in public administration, held up signs reading "War Damn =" and "U.S. Supreme Court > Roy Moore."
The Williams decided to go to Montgomery where Steven Reed, Montgomery County probate judge, was issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Shawn said after getting in and out of the Montgomery office in five minutes, they had their marriage license and came back to the courthouse so Farmer could perform the marriage ceremony in the courthouse square.
"This is real," Farmer said during the ceremony. "This is happening."
After the ceremony, Shawn told reporters how it felt to be married.
"Honestly, equal is the best word," Shawn said. "Just being able to do what everyone else can do is something special."
Justin said he was nervous to come up to the courthouse.
"I love Shawn so much, just to be able to finally marry him is worth it," Justin said, fighting back tears.
Shawn said being denied a license in Lee County was frustrating, but the support from those who turned out made it an easier process.
"The same people who are against same-sex marriage are the same people who were against interracial marriage 50-60 years ago and even longer that," Shawn said.
Shawn said people shouldn't be afraid to get married in Alabama.
Kris Martins contributed to this report.