Alabama probate office ends illegal practice of denying marriage licenses for applicants without proof of immigration status

Alabama’s Tallapoosa County Probate Office has ended its illegal practice of denying marriage licenses to people unable to provide proof of immigration status – a decision that closes a case the Southern Poverty Law Center brought against the office in 2012.

The office ended the practice this week. The policy change eliminates any requirement that applicants for marriage licenses prove their immigration status; requires the office to accept foreign identification documents; and creates alternative procedures for anyone who does not possess a Social Security number. 

“We are thrilled that our clients will finally be able to have their relationship recognized by the state, and in their church,” said Sam Brooke, senior SPLC staff attorney. “The right to marry is fundamental, and extends to everyone regardless of their race, national origin, or whether they have papers. This is a positive step forward to ensure everyone is treated fairly under the law.” 

Charelle Loder, “Jack Doe,” Julie Doe” and “Jonathan Doe,” who were represented by the SPLC, were denied marriage licenses by the Montgomery and Tallapoosa county probate courts in Alabama because they were unable to prove they are U.S. citizens or had current immigration status. 

The SPLC sued the Montgomery County Probate Office in 2011 over its discriminatory marriage policy. The Tallapoosa County Probate Office was added as a defendant in 2012. 

Montgomery County also changed its illegal practice by explicitly prohibiting consideration of immigration status, effectively ending the lawsuit against the county earlier this summer. Attorneys on the case included Mary Bauer, Daniel Werner and Jim Knoepp of the SPLC; and Freddy Rubio of Rubio Law Firm, P.C.