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Locals respond to the Defense of Marriage Act

Published 3:36pm Friday, June 28, 2013

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday deeming the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and clearing the way for gay marriage in California, many are asking what the ruling will mean for those living in Alabama.

Although the ruling leaves unanswered questions, the response to the ruling from some living in Chilton County was clear.

“Marriage in Alabama is between a man and a woman,” Chilton County Probate Judge Bobby Martin said. “If a gay couple came to me and tried to apply for a marriage license I would tell them that the state of Alabama says marriage is between a man and woman.”

Martin said he has never had a homosexual couple apply for a marriage license in Chilton County.

According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, “DOMA’s principal effect is to identify and make unequal a subset of state-sanctioned marriages.”

“It contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not others, of both rights and responsibilities, creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State. It also forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect,” according to the ruling.

The Chilton Baptist Association, represented a common conservative religious standpoint on the DOMA ruling.

Director of the Chilton Baptist Association Larry Felkins said that regardless of what the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday, he thinks marriage has one meaning.

“When it comes to marriage, God originated marriage and only God gets to define what it means,” Felkins said. “The Bible is pretty clear when it says that it is between one man and one woman for life.”

Felkins said he believes the decision on Wednesday will have the potential to affect churches.

“What if two guys or two ladies come to a local pastor and want them to marry them?” Felkins said. “If that pastor refuses to marry them then what happens to the pastor? I am afraid the pastor will be given choices of either performing the wedding or going to jail or losing your non-profit status.”

Currently, Alabama does not recognize same-sex unions and has two laws addressing marriage including the 1998 Marriage Protection Act and the 2006 state Constitutional Amendment 774.

The Marriage Protection Act defines marriage between a man and a woman and says no marriage license will be issued to parties of the same sex.

The 2006 state Constitutional Amendment 774 is cited as the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and says that “a union replicating marriage of or between persons of the same sex in the State of Alabama or in any other jurisdiction shall be considered and treated in all respects as having no legal force or effect in this state and shall not be recognized by this state as a marriage or other union replicating marriage.”

If a gay couple marries in a state that allows same-sex marriage but later moves to a state with a ban, the federal benefits will vary by agency. The I.R.S. and Social Security Administration will look at where the couple lives, not where they were married. Department of Defense benefits and immigration law considers where the couple was married, regardless of where they live. Homosexual couples living in Alabama that get married in a state where it is legal will now have federal benefits varying by agency.

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