Alabama Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down Again

     (CN) – A federal judge on Thursday ruled that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage in unconstitutional and enjoined probate judges from enforcing it, then stayed her decision pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the issue.
     U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade has been sparring with the state of Alabama since January, when she initial ruled its same-sex marriage ban was illegal.
     Three weeks later, the Alabama Supreme Court order the judges to stop issuing licenses to the couples.
     Judge Granade’s latest ruling came after the ACLU of Alabama and three other civil rights organizations requested she expand an ongoing lawsuit, Strawser v. Strange, to cover all same-sex couples and probate judges across the state.
     The district court’s order will take effect when the United States Supreme Court issues its decision in several pending cases seeking the freedom to marry in four states. The Supreme Court marriage cases were argued in April, and a ruling is expected by the end of June.
     “This is a victory for the LGBT community of Alabama,” said Susan Watson, executive director for the ACLU of Alabama, after Granade’s ruling was announced. “We applaud the court for its ruling that puts an end to the chaos created by the Alabama Supreme Court. Today love is triumphant.”
     The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center jointly filed the motion March 6, asking Granade to expand her ruling to apply to all same-sex couples and all probate judges throughout the state.
     The motion sought class action status to include all same-sex couples in Alabama who wish to marry and have their marriage recognized by the state as plaintiffs and all probate judges of the state as defendants.
     In her ruling expanding the plaintiff class, Granade said the “Defendants’ alleged conduct is directed against a specific class of people, same-sex couples, and is uniform in its application.”
     Therefore, she said, “All Plaintiff Class members have been harmed by being denied the ability of obtaining a marriage license and their injury can be properly addressed by class-wide injunctive relief.”
     Strawser v. Strange was brought by five same-sex couples after previously obtaining an order from Granade requiring the issuance of marriage licenses in Mobile County.
     Also on Thursday, Granade rejected a motion by Probate Judge Tim Russell who sought to reverse her January ruling on the grounds she failed to address his legal argument that he is entitled to quasi-judicial immunity. Russell argues his actions, refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, are not prejudicial, but only a manifestation of his enforcing a state supreme court order.
     Granade noted that the plaintiffs in Strawser are not seeking to hold Russell liable for complying with the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision, “but seek only to redress the deprivation of their constitutional rights.”
     “Under the circumstances here present, the Court finds that quasi-judicial immunity does not apply,” she wrote.

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