An Alabama Unitarian minister has been sentenced to 30 days, suspended, for performing a legally meaningless gay wedding:
Anne Susan DiPrizio, 44, entered the plea before Judge Ben Fuller, but not before some delays and judicial wrangling. He gave her 30 days in the Autauga Metro Jail, and then suspended the sentence in place of 6 months unsupervised probation. Fuller also ordered her to pay a $250 fine and other associated court costs.
On Feb. 10, DiPrizio offered to marry a lesbian couple inside the Autauga County Probate Office. The couple had received their marriage license just a few minutes before.
Probate Judge Al Booth had halted all marriage ceremonies in the office the day before. DiPrizio refused to leave the office after sheriff’s deputies were called and she was charged with disorderly conduct, court records show. She spent about three hours in the Autauga Metro Jail that day before posting a bond of $1,000, jail records show.
Let me get this straight — with no cheap pun intended. DiPrizio was arrested, fined, and sentenced for performing a wedding which Autauga County had licensed?
The scene during her plea wasn’t pretty:
An apparent plea deal was agreed to before the bench trial began. When Fuller pronounced the 30 day suspended jail sentence the first go round, DiPrizio balked.
“That’s not what we agreed to, we said no suspended 30 day sentence,” she said.
Fuller withdrew the plea agreement and told Desirae Lewis, the assistant district attorney handling the case to prepare to call her witnesses. During the break prosecutors huddled with DiPrizio, who was representing herself, and tried to clear up any confusion on the sentence.
Fuller came back to the courtroom and second time, handing down the sentence and DiPrizio interrupted him when he was talking about the fine.
“Can I ask a question?” she said to Fuller.
“When I’m done!” a visibly angered Fuller said with a raised voice. “We are here to take a misdemeanor plea. I don’t know if you think this is a game. If you do, you can learn differently very quickly.”
I understand that gay marriage isn’t allowed under Alabama law, which ought to be a matter for the people of Alabama to deal with one way or the other — but that’s an issue for another day. The simple and non-controversial solution in this case would be for the judge to declare the license (and thus the marriage) to be invalid under Alabama law and leave it at that. Why arrest DiPrizio for “disorderly conduct,” when near as I can tell there was nothing disorderly about a couple obtaining a license and then having a friendly minister perform a civil ceremony?
If there are any charges to be filed, perhaps the not-newlyweds should have paid a fine for “obtaining a license under false pretenses” or something similar, if it turns out one of them pretended to be a man to the clerk. And maybe something like that will or did happen — the USA Today story doesn’t get into that side of it. So I looked into the history of the case which dates back to February of this year:
The incident took place one day after a federal ruling went into effect that found Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Because the state’s top judicial officer, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, ordered probate judges to defy that ruling, a majority were refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday. A day later, the chaos only seems to be intensifying.
“I will say I was nothing but polite, and there was nothing disorderly about my conduct,” said 44-year-old Anne Susan Diprizio, the woman who was arrested Tuesday, to msnbc. “The only person who was behaving disorderly was [Autauga County Probate] Judge Booth, who was aggressive, rude, hateful, not gentlemanly, had no southern manners – nothing you would expect from a good man.” Msnbc reached out to Booth for comment, but his office declined to speak on the matter.
Yet the minister was convicted of disorderly conduct for presiding over a non-binding wedding ceremony? Near as I can tell from the these reports, Judge Fuller is just waving his little gavel around because he doesn’t like lesbians.
Fuller’s dislikes and biases are his business, of course — but that doesn’t mean he gets to bring them to the bench.