Alabama is now the 37th state to allow same-sex marriage, a status that the state has accepted grudgingly (to sort of undersell the point). The Alabama Media Group (a collective of newspapers in the state that reports at AL.com) has been tracking the availability of same-sex marriage licenses in each county, and in most, gay couples are not yet able to wed.
We were curious if there might be some thread uniting the counties that have and haven't decided to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. So we pulled a slew of data, comparing it to the AL.com categorizations of the county-by-county status. And for the most part, there was no correlation -- i.e. it wasn't more conservative counties holding out.
Perhaps the most visible factor is in urban-versus-rural. The counties with the lowest percentages of rural population are all granting same-sex marriage licenses. The only county that's less than 20 percent rural which isn't granting licenses outright is Mobile County. Counties not granting same-sex marriage licenses have about 72.2 percent of households in rural areas; those granting them, 54.1 percent.
Even comparing it to Alabama's now-notorious 2000 vote on removing a state ban on interracial marriage doesn't link up neatly with the current state of same-sex marriage availability. Counties that allowed same-sex marriage on Monday voted 15.6 percent more heavily in support of removing the ban on interracial marriage. Those that didn't allow same-sex marriage at all voted for removing the ban by a margin 10.8 percent -- higher than in counties that were taking same-sex marriage applications.
What this reinforces, more than anything, is that the state is trying to figure out how to adjust to a new reality. The eventual outcome seems clear: Each county will need to start issuing licenses to same-sex couples. But the path to that outcome is surprisingly twisty.