Couple Asks Federal Appeals Court to Allow Same-Sex Couples to Marry Beginning February 9

(Mobile, AL—Jan. 30, 2015) Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) asked a federal appeals court to permit same-sex couples in Alabama to begin obtaining marriage licenses when an existing federal court stay expires on February 9. NCLR filed the request on behalf of a Mobile couple who were denied a marriage license and subsequently obtained an order from a federal district court prohibiting enforcement of Alabama’s laws prohibiting marriage for same-sex couples. NCLR will represent the couple as the State of Alabama’s appeal from that order proceeds.

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 without an attorney. After a hearing at which the couple testified, Judge Callie V. S. Granade of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Alabama issued an order on January 26, 2015, prohibiting the state from enforcing its marriage ban. The court temporarily stayed its order. Unless the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals or the United States Supreme Court enters a further stay, the district court’s stay will be lifted on February 9, and Alabama will be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples at that time.

On January 27, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange asked the Eleventh Circuit to stay the district court’s order until the Supreme Court issues its decision in four pending cases involving state bans on marriage for same-sex couples. A decision in those cases is expected by the end of June 2015.

Today, NCLR asked the court to deny the state’s request, noting that the Supreme Court has previously denied similar requests to delay issuance of marriage licenses in Florida, Kansas, South Carolina, Idaho, and other states.

“We are thrilled by Judge Granade’s ruling, which has given us hope that we can marry in our home state and have the security of knowing that we can make decisions and care for one another if either of us becomes ill or incapacitated,” said plaintiff James Strawser. “Especially as we see same-sex couples in almost every other state being able to marry, it means so much to know that we will soon have that same freedom here in Alabama.”

Added NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Christopher F. Stoll, who represents the plaintiffs: “We are honored to represent Jim and John as they continue their fight to obtain the same family protections that other Alabama couples enjoy. They have done a remarkable job standing up for their rights on their own, and we look forward to helping them make the strongest possible case on appeal. We hope the Eleventh Circuit will agree there is no legal basis to delay allowing Alabama couples access to the respect and protections of civil marriage, and that on February 9, Alabama will join the 36 other states in which all couples have the freedom to marry.”

The couple is represented by NCLR and by Birmingham attorney Heather Fann.

Read NCLR’s brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th District.