January 23, 2015 at 6:24 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Court strikes down Alabama ban on same-sex marriage

same-sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

A federal court has struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage.

A federal judge in Alabama has become the latest to strike down a state ban on same-sex marriage, ruling against the Yellowhammer State’s prohibition on gay nuptials on the basis that it violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

In a 10-page decision on Friday, U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade, an appointee of George W. Bush, issued summary judgement in favor of a plaintiff same-sex couple, finding Alabama marriage laws violate the couple’s right to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

“There has been no evidence presented that these marriage laws have any effect on the choices of couples to have or raise children, whether they are same-sex couples or opposite-sex couples,” Granade writes. “In sum, the laws in question are an irrational way of promoting biological relationships in Alabama.”

Granade continues Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional for the same reason the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

“If anything, Alabama’s prohibition of same-sex marriage detracts from its goal of promoting optimal environments for children,” Granade writes. “Those children currently being raised by same-sex parents in Alabama are just as worthy of protection and recognition by the State as are the children being raised by opposite-sex parents. Yet Alabama’s Sanctity laws harms the children of same-sex couples for the same reasons that the Supreme Court found that the Defense of Marriage Act harmed the children of same-sex couples.”

No stay is included in the decision, which enjoins the state from enforcing Alabama’s laws prohibiting same-sex marriage in their entirety. It seems same-sex couples can begin to wed in the state as soon as clerk’s offices are open for business. The decision makes Alabama the 37th state in the country to have same-sex marriage.

The case, Searcy et al v. Strange, was filed in May by private attorneys on behalf of Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, a lesbian couple who were legally married in California under that state’s laws.

Searcy had sought to adopt McKeand’s 8-year-old biological son, K.S., under a provision of state adoption code allowing a person to adopt a “spouse’s child,” but the petition was denied in probate court based on Alabama’s prohibition on same-sex marriage.

David Kennedy, an attorney at the Mobile-based Wright Green PC law firm and lead counsel in the case, expressed satisfaction with the decision.

“We are very pleased with the ruling and believe that it does have a significant impact on all issues related to same-sex marriage in Alabama,” Kennedy said.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, a Republican, has the option of seeking a stay and appealing the decision to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. However, that appellate court, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, previously denied a stay pending appeal on a ruling in favor of marriage equality in Florida, which is also in the Eleventh Circuit.

According to AL.com, Strange is expected to nonetheless seek a stay on the decision pending the outcome of litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We are disappointed and are reviewing the federal district court’s decision,” Strange spokesman Mike Lewis is quoted as saying. “We expect to ask for a stay of the court’s judgment pending the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling which will ultimately decide this case.”

The ruling is handed down in the same year as the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama, a milestone in the civil rights movement for African-Americans.

UPDATE: In a four-page brief filed shortly after the decision was handed down, Strange formally asked the court to place a hold on his decision and anticipated same-sex marriages. The chief reason given is the expected ruling on the marriage issue from the Supreme Court following its decision to take up related litigation.

But Strange also maintains a stay is warranted because Alabama would “suffer irreparable harm” if same-sex marriages took place in Alabama only for a higher court to declare them inconsistent with state law at a later time.

“Granting a stay will not harm the Plaintiffs, but would only maintain the status quo while these issues are considered by the appellate courts,” Strange writes. “Finally, a stay will serve the public interest by avoiding the confusion and inconsistency that will result from an on-again, off-again enforcement of marriage laws.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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