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SPLC, allies ask federal court to order Alabama probate judges to issue same-sex marriage licenses

The action comes amid a confrontation between the Alabama Supreme Court and the federal judiciary, which has struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.

The SPLC and a group of leading civil rights organizations today asked a federal court to expand a lawsuit challenging Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage and to order all of the state’s probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The action comes amid a confrontation between the Alabama Supreme Court and the federal judiciary.

Most of the state’s probate judges had begun issuing same-sex marriage licenses in February after U.S. District Judge Callie V. Granade ruled Alabama’s ban unconstitutional.

But, this week, the Alabama Supreme Court intervened – ordering the probate judges to stop issuing the licenses. All of the judges complied. 

“Fair-minded people of Alabama don’t want obstruction,” said SPLC deputy legal director David Dinielli. “They want progress. Couples in all 67 counties of this state should have the freedom to marry. The United States Constitution protects all of us, including those in Alabama, no matter the opinion of the Alabama Supreme Court.

“Marriage equality has taken hold in Alabama. We promise you that we are not going back and we are not leaving anyone behind.”

In addition to the SPLC, the groups filing the motion were the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.   

The request was filed as part of a lawsuit brought by five same-sex couples who previously obtained Granade’s order requiring the issuance of marriage licenses in Mobile County. The motion asks the court to grant class action to the suit so it includes all same-sex couples in Alabama who wish to marry and have their marriage recognized by the state. 

The Alabama Supreme Court issued its ruling to uphold the Alabama ban on March 3, despite the U.S Supreme Court’s refusal to stay Granade’s decision invalidating it.

Today’s motion, filed in Strawser v. Strange, asks Granade to apply her previous orders to all Alabama county probate judges and require them to resume issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  

Separately, the SPLC has filed a state judicial ethics complaint against Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore over his public statements urging the governor and Alabama judges to defy federal law and enforce the same-sex marriage ban.

Moore was removed from office 12 years ago following a similar SPLC complaint, after he defied a federal court order to remove a giant Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse. Alabama voters, however, returned him to office.