Charelle Loder, a U.S. citizen, and “Jack Doe,” an undocumented immigrant from Haiti, had been a couple for five years. When they decided to marry, they could not obtain a marriage license from the Montgomery County Probate Office in Alabama because it denied licenses to couples unable to prove both partners have legal immigration status. The policy was not required by any federal or state law.
The SPLC filed a federal lawsuit challenging the policy and seeking class-action status to represent couples across the state who would be denied marriage licenses. Forty-one of Alabama’s 67 counties enforced such a policy at the time the suit was filed.
The lawsuit charged that the Montgomery County Probate Office’s marriage license policy, and similar policies in other counties, violated the U.S. Constitution’s due process and equal protection clauses. The Constitution guarantees the right to marry to all people, regardless of immigration status.
The lawsuit also cited a 2004 opinion from the Alabama Attorney General’s Office that states “a marriage license can be issued to an applicant who is not a United States citizen.” A 2008 opinion from the office concluded that a “social security number is not a required element for a person to receive a marriage license.”
The lawsuit was filed almost a month after the SPLC brought a similar lawsuit on behalf of an Alabama couple that resulted in 13 Alabama counties either ending the practice of denying marriage licenses due to immigration status or affirming they abide by the law and marry individuals regardless of their immigration status.
That initial lawsuit was brought on behalf of Linda Smith, a U.S. citizen, and “John Doe,” an undocumented immigrant. They also were denied the right to marry by the Montgomery County Probate Office’s policy.