The federal judge that struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage has now issued a 14-day stay on the decision, barring gay nuptials from taking place in the Yellowhammer State on a temporary basis.
In a six-page order, U.S. District Judge Callie V. S. Granade, an appointee of George W. Bush, says she agrees for the time being to a request from Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to stay her decision, which was issued on Friday.
Granade writes Luther is unlikely to succeed on appeal and same-sex couples in the state would be harmed by a stay, but nonetheless puts a hold on the ruling to give the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Alabama, a chance to weigh in.
“[T]he court recognizes the value of allowing the Eleventh Circuit an opportunity to determine whether a stay is appropriate,” Granade writes. “Accordingly, although no indefinite stay issues today, the court will allow the Attorney General time to present his arguments to the Eleventh Circuit so that the appeals court can decide whether to dissolve or continue the stay pending appeal (assuming there will be an appeal.) The preliminary injunction will be stayed for 14 days.”
Additionally, Granade writes that prior to the expiration of the stay, she’ll issue a clarification on whether her decision applies to just the plaintiff same-sex couple, Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, or the entire state.
It’s hard to see how the Eleventh Circuit would deem it necessary to impose a stay on the decision. After a federal court in ruled against the ban on same-sex marriage in Florida, neither the appellate court, nor the U.S. Supreme Court, would agree to a stay as the litigation proceeded.
David Kennedy, an attorney at the Mobile-based Wright Green PC law firm and lead counsel in the case, said took note that the court agreed with the plaintiffs on all points before issuing a stay.
“We respect Judge Granade’s decision and look forward to February 9th when same-sex marriage will be recognized across the state and all of Alabama’s citizens can enjoy marriage equality,” Kennedy said.
After Granade struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage on Friday, Luther followed up that evening to request a stay chiefly on the basis that the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently granted certiorari in a series of marriage cases, would soon decide the issue.
Also weighing in the issue was the Alabama Probate Judges Association, which issued a statement saying the ruling only applies to the plaintiff same-sex couple in the case. In a friend-of-the-court brief, the association said a stay is necessary to “avoid substantial confusion.”
Granting a stay will not harm the plaintiffs in this matter but will only preserve the status quo pending consideration of these issues by the appellate court,” the brief states.
In a Facebook post, Equality Alabama shot back in joint statement with the Human Rights Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and the Southern Poverty Law Center, saying the Alabama Probate Judges Association “is a private organization whose legal advice is non-binding.”
“Simply put, the non-binding legal opinion of the Probate Association cannot and does not preempt a Federal Order,” the post says. “Probate judges should comply with their constitutional obligations as declared by a federal court rather than the desires of the leaders of a private professional organization.”
David Dinielli, head of the LGBT rights project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said recognition from the judge that an appeal will likely be unsuccessful and a further stay would harm same-sex couples is “heartening.”
“If I were the district court judge, I would not be happy about the Alabama Association of Probate Judges’ thumbing its nose at the unambiguous and decisive ruling that Alabama’s marriage restrictions are unconstitutional and cannot be justified by any rational argument and are no longer in effect in Alabama,” Dinielli said. “We are hopeful the Eleventh Circuit will not force Alabama families to await equality any longer than they already have.”