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Same-Sex Couple In Birmingham Denied Marriage License

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Tamika Moore,

Couple Josh Laning and Greg Mullins stand outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama on Monday, January 26.

The courthouse had just opened, and Greg Mullins and Josh Laning stood in the hallway outside the probate office. Greg’s 50, and Josh is 41, and they have been together for a decade. They know they’re unlikely to get a marriage license, but they just want to try.

On Friday, the U.S. District Judge in Mobile, Callie Granade, struck down Alabama’s gay marriage ban. Alabama’s Attorney General’s office quickly petitioned the judge to put a stay on the issuing of marriage licenses. And late Sunday night, the same judge issued a two-week hold on marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

Both Josh and Greg say they are a little nervous walking in.

“I don’t know how they will react to us, because people applying for marriage licenses — one or the other usually don’t have beards,” Greg jokes.

They have been thinking about getting married for years, but they never believed it would be possible in Alabama. Greg had to call his sister to find out where to go to get a license.

They walk into the probate office. “Marriage license, please,” Greg asks the clerk.

Clerk Jackie Rhodes motions them to the correct place at the counter.

“I was fully prepared to issue licenses this morning,” Rhodes says softly, smiling at Greg and Josh. But, she explains, because of the stay she cannot legally issue them a license today.

Greg and Josh look relieved: no, they didn’t get a license, but they weren’t shooed away either.

Rhodes tells them to come back on February 9 and reminds them to make arrangements with a minister if they would like one to perform the ceremony.

Elsewhere in the state, a similar scene played out at the Calhoun County courthouse, where a lesbian couple attempted to register their marriage. Calhoun County Probate Judge Alice Martin says she is just following the law.

In Montgomery, the Montgomery County Probate Office planned for a crowd before the stay was issued.

As for Greg and Josh, they plan to be back at the courthouse in two weeks to try again.