Searcy v. Strange & Strawser v. Strange
On February 4, the 11th Circuit put Attorney General Strange's appeal in this case on hold pending action from the United States Supreme Court. On Monday, February 9, Judge Granade's ruling went into effect, until it was put temporarily on hold on March 3 by the Alabama Supreme Court. The Searcy case is led by Christine C. Hernandez of The Hernandez Firm, LLC and David G. Kennedy of The Kennedy Law Firm. The Strawser case is led by the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
On March 6, 2015, following a stunningly out-of-step ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court ordering probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU of Alabama, and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a motion to amend the initial complaint, seeking class-action status to bring the freedom to marry statewide in Alabama.
On May 7, 2014, a same-sex couple in Alabama filed a federal lawsuit, Searcy v. Bentley, seeking legal respect for their marriage license.
The plaintiffs in the case, filed by private attorneys, are Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand from Mobile, Alabama. The women have been together for more than 14 years. They got married in California in 2008.
Together, they are raising a young son, Khaya, who was born in 2005. Since Alabama does not respect the couple as married, Searcy, the non-biological bother, is not allowed to legally adopt her own son. She said: "I am a parent in every way to our son, but legally I am still considered a stranger. We just want our son to have the same protections and securities as other Alabama families."
In September of 2014, James Strawser and John Humphrey filed a federal lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry in Alabama. The couple is unmarried and wishes to get married in the state.
On January 23, 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Callie V. Granade ruled in favor of the freedom to marry, striking down Alabama's ban on same-sex couples from marrying. The judge ruled similarl in the Strawser case on January 27, in a case involving an unmarried same-sex couple. The judge did not issue a stay in her ruling. Shortly after the ruling, the Alabama Attorney General requested an emergency request for a stay. Judge Granade granted the request and stayed the ruling for 14 days. Attorney General Strange requested for a further stay pending appeal, which was denied by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.
In Re: Alan King
On March 3, 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling in this "emergency petition for writ of mandamus," brought by two private groups who oppose the freedom to marry in Alabama. In the ruling, the Court ordered a temporary halt to probate judges in Alabama from issuing marriage licenses, aside from probate judge Davis in Mobile, who was specifically ordered to stop enforcing Alabama's harmful ban on marriage between same-sex couples.
The decision ordered four probate judges - Jefferson County's Alan L. King (Jefferson County), Chilton County's Robert M. Martin, Madison County's Tommy Ragland, and Montgomery County's Steven L. Reed to immediately stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 62 other probate judges in Alabama - all except for Mobile probate judge Don Davis, who was specifically enjoined from enforcing Alabama's marriage ban by federal court order - are temporarily orderd to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Each judge has five days to respond explaining why they should be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Additionally, Judge Davis of Mobile is ordered to file a response by Thursday explaining whether he believes the federal court order requires him to issue marriage licenses to any same-sex couples besides the four couples involved in the Strawser case, brought by same-sex couples and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Freedom to Marry will continue working with our partners at Equality Alabama, NCLR, the ACLU of Alabama and the Southern Poverty Law Center until same-sex couples across Alabama have the freedom to marry once and for all.
In February 2015, two private organizations' Emergency Petition for Writ of Mandamus regarding the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Alabama. The filing came the same day that the number of probate judges issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples more than doubled in the state, jumping to 50 counties on Friday, February 13.
In their petition, these two private organizations asked the Court to require probate judges in Alabama to defy a federal ruling in favor of the freedom to marry. The organizations, who purport to represent the state of Alabama, essentially urge the Court to command probate judges in the state to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
On February 13, Equality Alabama filed a "friend-of-the-court brief" making the case that the petition should be dismissed, and that probate judges in Alabama should follow the law by continuing to issue marriage licenses to all couples. The brief argues that these two private organizations do not have the jurisdiction in the first place to represent the state of Alabama - and that they have not been harmed in any way by the probate judges' actions this week.
Hard v. Bentley
On February 13, 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit in Alabama on behalf of a man seeking recognition as the surviving spouse of another man. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of Alabama's denial of respect for legal out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples and seeks to invalidate provisions of Alabama’s Marriage Protection Act and the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment that ban recognition of married same-sex couples.
The plaintiff in the case is Paul Hard, who married Charles David Fancher, Alabama natives, in Massachusetts. David was killed in a 2011 car accident just north of Montgomery, which resulted in a wrongful death lawsuit. Because of Alabama's anti-marriage laws, Paul is now unable to be recognized as the surviving spouse, which denies him any share of the proceeds in the suit.
The Southern Poverty Law Center explains more of Paul and David's story. David C. Dinielli, Deputy Legal Director for SPLC, explained further: "Alabama has created two classes of marriages within its borders and deemed one of those classes – marriages between people of the same sex – to be inferior to the other. This is unconstitutional. The only purpose of refusing Paul the right to share in the proceeds from the wrongful death lawsuit is to punish him for having married a man, and to express moral disapproval of this choice. These purposes are improper and unconstitutional. Alabama must treat its LGBT citizens with equal dignity and respect under the law."
Aaron-Brush v. Bentley
On June 10, 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a new federal lawsuit in Alabama, Aaron-Brush v. Bentley, on behalf of a same-sex couple seeking legal respect for their marriage, performed in Massachusetts in 2012. The lawsuit argues that a constitutional amendment in Alabama banning same-sex couples from marriage and denying respect for marriage licenses received in other states violates the United States Constitution.
The plaintiff couple is April and Ginger Aaron-Bush of Birmingham, AL. April and Ginger have been together for more than 17 years and legally married in Massachusetts in 2012, on the 15th anniversary of becoming a couple.
April explained, "The word marriage, in itself, brings validity and respect to any committed relationship. One's marriage status shouldn't change simply by crossing state lines. Gay couples seek to be married for the very same reasons that opposite-sex couples choose to be married - love, honor and commitment."
Richmond & Richmond v. Madison County Circuit Clerk
In March 2013, a same-sex couple filed a petition for the dissolution of their marriage in Alabama, and on March 12, the case was dismissed. It is now under appeal. The petition requests recognition for their out-of-state marriage for the purpose of filing the divorce and, in effect, challenges the constitutionality of Alabama’s denial of respect for legal marriages.
The uncontested divorce petition was filed in Madison County, Alabama Circuit Court on behalf of Shrie Michelle Richmond & Kirsten Allysse Richmond, who married in Iowa in 2012. Under Alabama law, it is unclear whether the plaintiffs' out-of-state marriage can be terminated, because Alabama does not respect marriages between same-sex couples.
- PROPOSED AMENDED COMPLAINT: 'Strawser v. Strange'
- MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT: 'Strawser v. Strange'
- AL SUPREME COURT RULING: 'In Re: Alan King'
- REQUEST FOR INJUNCTION: 'Hedgepeth v. Probate Court of Mobile County'
- STAY DENIED BY SCOTUS: 'Searcy v. Strange' & 'Strawser v. Strange'
- APPEAL ON HOLD: 'Searcy v. Strange'
- STAY DENIED: 'Searcy v. Strange' & 'Strawser v. Strange'
- RULING: 'Strawser v. Strange'
- NOTICE OF APPEAL: 'Searcy v. Strange'
- MOTION GRANTED: 14-Day Stay, 'Searcy v. Strange'
- OPPOSED MOTION FROM PLAINTIFFS: Stay in 'Searcy v. Strange'
- RULING: 'Searcy v. Strange'
- INITIAL COMPLAINT: 'Aaron-Brush v. Bentley'
- INITIAL COMPLAINT: 'Searcy v. Bentley'
- MEET THE PLAINTIFF: 'Hard v. Bentley'
- INITIAL COMPLAINT: 'Hard v. Bentley'
- BACKGROUND: The Freedom to Marry in Alabama