Federal Court Final Order: To Guarantee Freedom to Marry in Alabama

Gavin Grimm
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Finally, freedom to marry reaches Alabama same-sex couples

Mobile, Ala.—A federal court today entered a final order and judgment requiring Alabama officials to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, say four civil liberties organizations that are representing same-sex couples in the state.

U.S. District Judge Callie V. Granade issued a permanent injunction that requires Alabama officials to respect the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. The order mandates state officials to issue marriage licenses to and recognize unions of gay couples.

Shannon P. Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said: “Today’s ruling establishes clearly and finally that all state officials in Alabama must respect same-sex couples’ freedom to marry. It is unfortunate that some state officials, including members of the state judiciary, continued to question their obligations even after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision last year. Today’s ruling should put any confusion to rest.”

The civil liberties organizations requested that Judge Granade issue a permanent injunction to ensure that same-sex couples’ freedom to marry would be respected in Alabama, a necessary step given some officials’ ongoing opposition to marriage equality. In March of this year, the Alabama Supreme Court declined to withdraw its earlier 2015 order in Ex parte State ex rel. Ala. Policy Inst., which had said the state is not bound by a federal court decision that struck down the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, even though that order was plainly invalid because of the United States Supreme Court’s 2015 decision recognizing same-sex couples’ freedom to marry throughout the nation.

In today’s decision, Judge Granade pointed to state officials’ continued resistance to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision as a reason why a permanent injunction remained necessary: “The failure of the Alabama Supreme Court to set aside its earlier mandamus order and its willingness to uphold that order in the face of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell demonstrate the need for a permanent injunction in this case. . . . [A]s long as the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act remain on the books, there continues to be a live controversy with respect to which the Court can give meaningful relief.”

The case, Strawser v. Strange, is being litigated jointly by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Birmingham attorney Heather Fann on behalf of all same-sex couples in Alabama who have married or wish to marry.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. 

Heather Fann is a Shareholder at Boyd, Fernambucq, Dunn & Fann in Birmingham, Alabama, a firm that concentrates its practice on family law. Heather is the current Chair of the Alabama State Bar Family Law Section.

[From a News Release]

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