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Press Release

Marriage

Civil Rights Organizations Ask Federal Court In Alabama To Order Freedom To Marry Statewide

(Mobile, AL, March 6, 2015)—A group of leading national civil rights organizations today filed a motion requesting a federal district court to expand a lawsuit challenging Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage and to order all county probate judges in the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The joint motion was filed by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The request, filed as part of a lawsuit brought by five same-sex couples who previously obtained an order from the same court requiring issuance of marriage licenses in Mobile County, seeks class-action status that would include all same-sex couples in Alabama who wish to marry and have their marriage recognized by the state.

The motion requests that the federal district court expand their lawsuit to cover all county probate judges in the state.  In Alabama, probate judges are responsible for issuing marriage licenses. Today’s filing requests the federal district court order to require all probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Alabama Supreme Court on Tuesday halted same-sex marriages in the state despite the U.S Supreme Court’s refusal to stay a lower court’s decision invalidating the ban.

“If Alabama officials thought we were going to sit back and allow them to deny same-sex couples their constitutional right to marry, they thought wrong,” said Ayesha N. Khan, legal director of Americans United. “We are going to fight for these couples.”

Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, added, “Alabama needs to be on the right side of history. Marriage equality is coming to all 50 states. We will not give up the fight until marriage equality exists for all.”

David Dinielli, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center said: “Fair-minded people of Alabama don’t want obstruction. They want progress. Couples in all 67 counties of this state should have the freedom to marry. The United States Constitution protects all of us, including those in Alabama, no matter the opinion of the Alabama Supreme Court. Marriage equality has taken hold in Alabama. We promise you that we are not going back and we are not leaving anyone behind.”

NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter agreed: “Alabama couples deserve the security and protection that marriage provides. We hope that the court will act quickly to provide certainty to couples throughout the state and establish once and for all that Alabama’s same-sex couples have the freedom to marry.”

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Callie V. Granade declared unconstitutional an amendment to the Alabama Constitution banning same-sex marriages. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently declined to stay Granade’s ruling. Most counties in Alabama began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples last month following Judge Granade’s orders.

But some county probate judges, who are responsible for issuing marriage licenses, refused to grant licenses to same-sex couples. The matter was further clouded March 4 when the Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges to stop issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

Today’s request by the organizations, filed in Strawser v. Strange, asks Judge Granade to apply her previous orders declaring Alabama’s marriage ban unconstitutional to all county probate judges in Alabama and require them to resume issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

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