Federal judge in SPLC case: Alabama must recognize marriage equality ruling

A federal judge ruled this week that Alabama officials must abide by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage despite contrary statements by the Alabama Supreme Court– a victory for the SPLC and other civil rights groups that fought to secure marriage equality in the state.

The permanent injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Callie V. Granade, which applies to the attorney general and all probate judges in Alabama, mandates that state officials issue same-sex marriage licenses and recognize such marriages in accordance with the high court’s ruling last year. The district court’s ruling comes after the Alabama Supreme Court refused to withdraw an order earlier this year that said the state was not bound by a federal court decision that struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban months before the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling in June 2015.

“This judgment makes permanent what most people have known all along – Alabama state officials must abide by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized same-sex marriage,” said Scott McCoy, senior staff attorney. “State officials may not refuse to recognize the legal right of a same-sex couple to marry. This is the law of the land despite Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s or the Alabama Supreme Court’s personal beliefs to the contrary.”

In January 2015, Granade ruled the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional in a separate lawsuit – sparking the confrontation between the federal judiciary and the Alabama Supreme Court, which maintained state probate judges should not issue same-sex marriage licenses.

As recently as March of 2016, the Alabama Supreme Court refused to withdraw an order that said the state was not bound by Granade’s ruling. In issuing the permanent injunction today, Granade cited state officials’ continued resistance to the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling as the reason it was necessary.

The injunction was issued in Strawser v. Strange. Co-counsel included the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and Heather Fann of Boyd, Fernambucq, Dunn & Fann, P.C.