Linda Smith, a U.S. citizen, and “John Doe,” an undocumented immigrant, had been a couple for more than nine 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 lawsuit challenging the policy and seeking class action status to represent couples across the state who would be denied marriage licenses. Fifty-four of Alabama’s 67 counties enforced such a policy.
The lawsuit charged that the Montgomery County Probate Office’s marriage license policy, and similar policies in other counties, violates 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.”