Achieving LGBTQ Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy, and Public Education

Case Summary & History


Case: Strawser v. Strange

STATUS: Victory, Alabama


NCLR Alabama marriage equality case plaintiffs John Humphrey and James Strawser.

James Strawser and John Humphrey applied for a marriage license in Mobile County, Alabama, but were denied. Strawser faces significant health issues. Despite having a medical power of attorney, Humphrey was told by a hospital where Strawser was receiving medical treatment that they would not honor the document because Humphrey was not a family member or spouse.

The couple filed a federal challenge to Alabama’s marriage ban, a companion case to a case filed by Mobile couple Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, who married in California but whose marriage Alabama refuses to recognize. Searcy and McKeand are represented by Alabama attorneys Christine Hernandez and David Kennedy.

On January 23 and 26, 2015, Judge Callie V. S. Granade of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Alabama issued decisions in the cases prohibiting Alabama from enforcing its marriage ban and its non-recognition laws. The court temporarily stayed its order until February 9.

On January 27, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to stay the district court’s order until the U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision in marriage equality cases from Tennessee, Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky.  A decision in those cases is expected by the end of June 2015.

On February 3, the Eleventh Circuit denied the Attorney General’s request to prevent the district court’s order from taking effect as scheduled on February 9.

On February 3, the Attorney General asked the Supreme Court to stay the district court orders until the Supreme Court rules in cases involving marriage equality bans in Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan. (A decision in those cases is expected by the end of June 2015.) The following day, Strawser and Humphrey asked the Supreme Court to allow the district court’s decisions striking down the marriage ban to go into effect as scheduled on February 9. On the morning of February 9, the Supreme Court denied the state’s request.

That day, couples began marrying in Alabama. Some county probate judges, including in Mobile County, where Strawser and Humphrey applied for a marriage license, refused to issue marriage licenses.  The same day, three additional same-sex couples joined Strawser and Humphrey, in asking United States District Judge Callie V. S. Granade to instruct Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis to issue them marriage licenses after Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses entirely rather than issue licenses to same-sex couples. The Alabama couples joining Strawser and Humphrey in the amended complaint are Meredith Miller and Anna Lisa Carmichael, Robert Povilat and Milton Persinger, and Kristy Simmons and Marshay Safford.

After a hearing on February 12, 2015, Judge Granade instructed Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As a result of Judge Granade’s order, county probate judges in most Alabama counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

On March 3 and March 10, 2015, the Supreme Court of Alabama issued a series of orders that directed county probate judges to cease issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As a result of those orders from the state supreme court, all counties that previously had issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples stopped doing so.

On March 6, 2015, NCLR and co-counsel filed a motion on behalf of the plaintiffs in the federal Strawser case, asking Judge Granade for (1) leave to file a second amended complaint naming additional plaintiffs and an additional defendant, (2) certification of the federal case as a class action encompassing all same-sex couples and all county probate judges in the State of Alabama, and (3) an order and injunction directing all Alabama probate judges to issue marriage licenses to any otherwise qualified same-sex couple. The motion remains pending.

The couples are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Birmingham attorney Heather Fann, the ACLU of Alabama, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Learn about the Searcy v. Strange case.

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