11th Circuit denies Alabama’s request for stay on same-sex marriage ruling; AG Strange appeals to Supreme Court

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(WHNT/AP) - The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the state Attorney General's request for a stay on a judge's ruling allowing same-sex marriage in Alabama.  This essentially clears the way for same-sex marriage to begin next week.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade put a stay on her decision until February 9, allowing Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange time to appeal.  Alabama had asked to keep the stay in place until the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue of gay marriage later this year.  The 11th Circuit denied that request.

Despite a request to immediately allow same-sex marriages, Granade ruled Tuesday that the stay remain in place until February 9 to allow the Probate Courts to be prepared for the compliance ruling.

Attorney General  Strange quickly took his appeal up the ladder, filing a motion to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the ruling until June, when the high court is expected to rule.

"I am disappointed in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court’s decision not to stay the federal district court’s ruling.  The confusion that has been created by the District Court’s ruling could linger for months until the U.S. Supreme Court resolves this issue once and for all," said Attorney General Strange.

At least five of the nine justices must vote for a delay to stop the same-sex marriage ban from being lifted Monday. The high court recently went through a similar ruling with Florida.

"They've already denied a similar request for a stay in the Florida case," said Huntsville attorney Rebekah McKinney. "Same-sex marriages are proceeding in Florida and there's no reason to believe that they would treat the Alabama case any different than they have treated the Florida case."

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley also released a statement on the appellate court's decision to deny the stay.

''I am disappointed by the 11th Circuit`s decision today. The issue of same sex marriage is a complicated one that involves all levels of government. My request to the 11th Circuit was simply to ask that the stay be held until the Supreme Court can rule once and for all this year or pending the fully briefed 11th Circuit appeal of the issue. I support the Attorney General's decision to ask the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of the 11th Circuit's decision."

Lawyers for the couple that challenged the ban have said gay families have been waiting too long without the legal protection of marriage. State lawyers said there could be disagreement over the issuance of marriage licenses.

Ben Cooper, board chair of Equality Alabama, applauded the ruling by the appeals court.

"The 11th Circuit did the right thing today for all committed couples and their families in Alabama. Marriage for same-sex couples will give gay people the respect and dignity their commitments deserve, as well as tangible protections in order to build their lives together. The freedom to marry is a reflection of Alabama’s values of love and family. We look forward to seeing the first joyful weddings take place for same-sex couples throughout the state, and against this backdrop of happy celebrations, we hope the court soon hands down a final ruling that ensures that all committed couples in Alabama, have the freedom to marry the person they love."

Barring an intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court, probate judges across the state are expected to follow the federal judge's order and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning Monday.

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