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Governor Declares Same-Sex Marriages Illegal in Alabama

August 30, 1996 GMT

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ Gov. Fob James signed an executive order banning recognition of same-sex marriages in Alabama, a move denounced by the American Civil Liberties Union as ``wrong and unconstitutional.″

To deny lesbians and gays the right to marry ``denies them simple basic dignity,″ said Olivia Turner, executive director of the state ACLU. She said the move was discriminatory.

But James said he based the order issued Thursday on rulings by the state attorney general.

The order, which is effective immediately, prohibits probate judges or any other person authorized to issue marriage licenses from issuing one to a homosexual couple. It said such marriages in other states or foreign countries ``shall not be recognized as a valid marriage in this state.″

``I signed this order because of pending legislation in Hawaii to legalize homosexual marriages,″ James said. ``There would have been the chance that Alabama would have to recognize those same-sex marriages.″

The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in May 1993 that the denial of marriage licenses to three same-sex couples was discriminatory under the state’s Equal Rights Amendment, unless the state can show a compelling interest in keeping the ban. A trial was scheduled for Sept. 10.

The case has raised fears that if Hawaii sanctions same-sex marriage, other states might be forced to recognize the marriages of gay couples who wed in Hawaii.

Legislative bans have been adopted in several states, including Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah.

Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice last week signed an executive order banning recognition of same-sex marriages in the state.

On a federal level, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which would prohibit federal recognition of gay marriages. The Senate was expected to take up the measure next month.

President Clinton has angered gay activists by saying he opposes same-sex marriage and would sign the bill.