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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Some Alabama counties are using a segregation-era law to avoid issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

In 1961, a time when the all-white Legislature was trying to preserve racial segregation, lawmakers rewrote state law to make it optional for counties to issue marriage licenses.

Now, some judges who oppose same-sex marriage are using the provision to get out of the marriage business altogether rather than risk issuing even one wedding license to gays or lesbians.

In at least nine of Alabama’s 67 counties, judges have quit issuing any marriage licenses since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions in June.

The precise reason lawmakers gave for making the 1961 change isn’t known. But judges opposed to gay marriage say it gives them the right to quit issuing any marriage licenses.