MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gays and lesbians could get licenses to marry in more than half of Alabama's counties Friday after a federal judge affirmed her ruling striking down the state's same-sex marriage ban.
More than a dozen counties reversed course Friday and began issuing the licenses to same-sex couples in the wake Thursday's strongly worded order from U.S. District Judge Callie Granade. By mid-day Friday, at least 35 of the state's 67 counties were complying.
"These numbers represent a seismic shift in favor of equality and justice. Resistance to happy, loving and committed same-sex couples getting married is quickly crumbling throughout the state," said Fred Sainz, a top spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, which has been lobbying to expand gay rights nationwide.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected Alabama's request to keep Granade's decision on hold until it decides later this year whether gays and lesbians have a fundamental right to marry and whether states can ban the unions.
But Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has remained defiant, demanding that the state's probate judges keep refusing to issue licenses to same-sex couples until the final word from the nation's highest court.
"It's my duty to speak up when I see the jurisdiction of our courts being intruded by unlawful federal authority," the 67-year-old Republican said in an interview Monday.
Moore's stance sowed enough confusion that some county offices stopped taking marriage applications from any couples at all.
Moore is an outspoken opponent of gay marriage who previously challenged the federal courts in a church-state showdown over the Ten Commandments.
Granade ruled on Jan. 23 that Alabama's voter-approved ban is unconstitutional, and followed up Thursday by directing the probate judge in Mobile County — one of the holdouts — to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples.
If gays and lesbians take all the same steps heterosexual couples take, a probate judge "may not deny them a license" because they are "same sex couples or because it is prohibited by the "Sanctity of Marriage" ban, Granade wrote.
Lawyers for couples hoping to wed across the state said they hoped other probate judges would get the message.
In Lee County, Probate Judge Bill English said his office began issuing licenses Friday morning in line with Granade's order.
"Although it doesn't mandate to me, it makes it clear," he said.
Moore made no immediate comment on Granade's latest ruling.