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Probate judges ask for clarification on if same-sex marriage licenses can be issued

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LIMESTONE & MORGAN COUNTIES, Ala. (WHNT) – There were no lines of people waiting in Morgan and Limestone Counties on this first day of “Wedding Week.” But there was still frustration and a lot of confusion from residents to the people in charge.

First thing Monday morning, a resident showed up at the Limestone County Courthouse to find out how her probate judge was going to handle “Wedding Week.”

“I’m just a Limestone County resident who supports equal rights,” said Melissa Davis.

This was the week same-sex couples were supposed to be able to get their marriage licenses to tie the knot in Alabama. Davis had another interest in the decision.  She’s an ordained minister.

“Marriage equality is something that is here and that the probate judges, it’s time for them to recognize that and that Roy Moore does not have the authority to tell them not to issue these licenses,” she said.

But Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s order was enough to confuse Probate Judge Charles Woodruff.  He decided not to issue any marriage licenses today for any couple, same-sex or not.  Woodruff declined an on camera interview, but off-camera had the same uncertainty as Morgan County Probate Judge Greg Cain.

“Which one are we to follow,” Judge Cain wondered out loud.  “We’ve got conflict in orders.”

Judge Cain said he wanted to meet with his county attorney before he issued any license to anyone.

“We don’t want to issue any license that could be later challenged or found to be null and void,” said Cain.

Judge Cain’s office wouldn’t even issue applications for marriage today.  He told his staff to tell people who came by to come back later, once the issue has been cleared up.

It was the same at the Lawrence County Probate Judge’s office too; no licenses issued until further clarification comes.

Both Morgan and Limestone Counties do not perform any marriage ceremonies anymore, citing not enough time and staff to do them. Meanwhile, the confusion hit home in an irritating way for some residents who didn’t know the controversy was brewing.

For example, February 9th was supposed to be very special for Shaun Terry of Morgan County.  But it didn’t start out very well.

“We were actually going to get married today, but now we can’t get a marriage license,” said Terry with his soon-to-be wife standing nearby.

He said he had no idea everything changed late last night when Chief Justice Roy Moore issued a ruling forbidding probate judges to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Terry said Moore was out of line.

“I don’t think it’s right because now it’s affecting everybody,” said Terry. “I’m a Christian and I don’t believe in same-sex marriage, but it’s not up to me to judge.”

It’s a tough situation for another Christian, the Morgan County Probate Judge himself, Greg Cain, whose office issues the licenses. Judge Cain has another title on Sundays.

“I’m a pastor of a small church in Hartselle.  It’s a non-denominational church,” Cain said.

Judge Cain was ready to do as the law required — issue marriage licenses to same-sex and traditional couples starting today. But now he says he doesn’t know what to do.  He does know what he’ll say to his congregation, though.

“Just because I personally may not condone certain actions does not mean that I cannot still treat those people with respect and with understanding. That’s the great thing that makes this country great, to me, is that we can have differences of opinions,” said Judge Cain.

As for Terry, he couldn’t even get the application to apply for a marriage license today.

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