Judge says office can’t handle influx, will limit licenses to county residents

Published 1:57 am Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Covington County Probate Office will no longer issue marriage licenses to persons who do not reside in Covington County, Probate Judge Ben Bowden announced Friday.

The new policy is an attempt to deal with the changing rules related to marriage and the effect it is having on probate offices across the State of Alabama, Bowden said.

On Monday, probate judges across the state are expected to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples, as a result of U.S. District Court Judge Callie V.S. “Ginny” Granade’s ruling that Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. While Bowden announced Friday that he will not issue licenses to same-sex couples, other probate offices across the state will no longer issue licenses – a move that Bowden said could increase local traffic without his new policy.

“Many probate offices in our area have decided not to issue marriage licenses at all in light of the recent Federal District Court ruling,” Bowden said. “This will cause an influx of applicants that we are not able to handle at this time.”

In addition, several counties have discontinued wedding ceremonies while still continuing to issue licenses. This has caused several couples to seek a license and a ceremony from a county that is still offering both. For example, Okaloosa County, Fla., officials recently decided to stop performing wedding ceremonies at the courthouse. Rather than get their license at one courthouse and have the ceremony at another, many of these couples are coming to Covington County for both, he said.

“There is also a lot of confusion about who can get a license and who cannot,” Bowden said. “Until this issue is settled, I think it best to focus on our own citizens.”

Alabama law states that a probate judge “may” issue a marriage license. Historically, a couple could obtain a license from any county, regardless of their residence. This change will require at least one of the persons seeking to marry to have their primary residence in Covington County.

Bowden said same-sex couples who are seeking a license to marry can contact the probate office for information on what other probate offices might be issuing licenses to same-sex couples.