In Alabama same-sex matrimony battle, county judges held in a middle

March 21, 2015 - accent chair

About 9 o’clock a night of Feb. 8, Judge Tim Russell felt his phone vibrate, that seemed weird during that hour. It was his work phone.

He and his wife, Sandy, had usually finished a prolonged expostulate from Birmingham, Ala., where they visited family, behind home to Baldwin County, on a Gulf of Mexico. While she readied for bed, he stood reading an email from Roy Moore, a arch probity of Alabama’s Supreme Court.

In reduction than 12 hours, Russell and other county judges were to start extenuation matrimony licenses to all couples, possibly happy or straight.

Russell finished reading a summary and hold it out to his wife.

“My God,” he said.


Russell lives with one feet in a past and one in a present, and talks as simply about either.

Driving to lunch recently, he accidentally private his maternal grandmother of 13 generations ago, Rebecca Nurse. She was hanged in 1692 for practicing witchcraft, and became a executive impression in Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible.”

The complicated aptitude of that story isn’t mislaid on Russell. “I consider a good understanding about a freedoms,” he said.

Religious freedoms, he said. And also equivalence underneath a law.

Among all a states, Alabama is a many staunchly against to same-sex marriage, consult after consult shows. So it serves as a watershed, a shallow over that national acceptance seems inevitable.

There was small surprise, then, when a authorised push erupted between Alabama’s tip judge, Moore, and his nemesis, a United States government.

It’s usually a latest conflict in a quarrel between state and kinship that has left on for a century and a half, in several incarnations. This time, though, there are subtleties function underneath a adorned tongue from tip officials. There are changes stirring in Alabama, in that smaller authorised players mount during contingency with, and even undermine, their leaders.

Players like Probate Judge Russell.

As he winding south along a bluffs over Mobile Bay, a 66-year-old decider talked about Confederate soldiers transfer barrels of turpentine into a H2O so that Northern infantry couldn’t use it, and forked to a site where his great-uncle and namesake was shot to genocide by an different assailant in 1919.

He stopped for lunch during a Grand Hotel, an antebellum tie in Point Clear that overlooks a bay. Enormous live oaks groaned in a wind, with branches so aged and complicated that they grow into a dirt and afterwards reemerge.

Each afternoon a trap drummer leads a way to a waterfront, where a hotel staff fires a coronet cannon over a bay. It’s a curtsy to wars of a past, a wooer and superannuated gesture, and Russell feels during palliate in a aged hotel’s atmosphere.