NEWS | Eric Reed
Orange Beach, Alabama — As Baptist newspaper editors and executive directors of state conventions arrived in coastal Alabama Monday, the ground under our feet shifted a little. The day’s big news story: The state started issuing marriage licenses for same sex couples.
Even in Alabama, and only in a few counties, but it is happening. And to hear how the local news reporters tell it, no one imagined this day would come.
According to USA Today’s most recent marriage map, same-sex marriage is banned in 13 states, but court actions are pending in all 13. The federal courts ordered Alabama to begin issuing same sex marriage licenses, but Judge Roy Moore (of Ten Commandments monument fame) ordered state offices to ignore that mandate.
“I had to clarify this for the probate courts to ensure order. Ok? And it was about that, but it was also about that federal courts do not have the authority to redefine marriage,” Moore told media after a late intervention.
So 60 counties refused to process applications filed for the first time yesterday. But in five counties, including Birmingham’s Jefferson County, the state’s most populous, gay couples were given licenses and some were married.
In the second most populous county, Mobile, the clerk’s office was shuttered as a dozen couples sat on benches outside for several hours until the office closed.
And in Baldwin County, where the annual Baptist executive directors and editors meetings are being held, one couple was allowed to apply, but the form was not processed. More noteworthy was the protest outside the county office by 75 people holding signs bearing Bible verses.
“United we stand…together against gay marriage,” protestor Sarah Baggett told a local television station. “We believe marriage is between…a man and a woman and we want to show that….We believe the Bible states firmly that’s not correct and we believe God loves everyone but sin is sin and that’s wrong.”
At the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, David Platt, at the time pastoring a megachurch in Birmingham, was asked about Alabama’s stance on same-sex marriage. He chuckled, saying Alabama was standing firm. Three years later, it’s no laughing matter.
Alabama Baptists felt the need to issue a statement today making their position clear. “The vast and overwhelming majority of Alabama Baptist leaders and other church members continue to affirm the biblical view of marriage and the historic declarations that Alabama Baptists have made concerning the marriage relationship,” executive director Rick Lance said.
“Therefore, any church that allows staff members to officiate at same-sex ceremonies is clearly outside biblical teachings about marriage and human sexuality, and they demonstrate that they are not in like-minded fellowship or friendly cooperation with Alabama Baptists and Southern Baptists.”
In Mobile, the marriage license office is closed again today, and nobody is getting married. Attorneys are preparing to file for another injunction.
Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.