Judge: Same-sex ruling may not apply here

Published 1:14 am Saturday, January 24, 2015

A federal judge in Mobile on Friday struck down Alabama’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, but the public official responsible for marriage licenses in Covington County said he is not sure the ruling applies to counties outside the Southern District.


U.S. District Callie V.S. “Ginny” Granade ruled Friday in favor of two Mobile women who sued to challenge Alabama’s refusal to recognize their marriage performed in California.

Plaintiffs Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand of Mobile said that they had been a couple for more than a decade and had a child, now 8, with the help of a sperm donor. However, an Alabama court refused to let Searcy be recognized as the child’s adoptive parent because state law did not recognize the couple as spouses.

Granade said a state statute and 2006 amendment to the Alabama Constitution were both in violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Judge Granade was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2001.

But Covington County Probate Judge Ben Bowden said he isn’t sure the ruling applies outside of Granade’s district. Covington County is part of the Middle District Court of Alabama.

“As it stands now, I don’t plan to issue any marriage licenses to same sex couples,” Bowden said late Friday. “That could change as I research the effect of a federal judge’s opinion from the Southern District of Alabama on a county like Covington that is located in the Middle District.”

Bowden said despite his personal feelings about the issue, he also doesn’t plan to defy a court order.

“I plan on doing some research and will consult with the county attorney before making a final decision,” he said.

Granade’s ruling said, in part, “There is no law prohibiting infertile couples, elderly couples, or couples who do not wish to procreate from marrying. Nor does the state prohibit recognition of marriages between such couples from other states. The Attorney General fails to demonstrate any rational, much less compelling, link…the laws in question are an irrational way of promoting biological relationships in Alabama.”

Because there was no stay placed on the ruling, organizations like the Human Rights Campaign believes same-sex couples can begin applying for marriage licenses as soon as clerks’ offices open.

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office indicated it would continue to fight the case.

“We are disappointed and are reviewing the Federal District Court’s decision,” read a statement from the office “We expect to ask for a stay of the court’s judgment pending the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling which will ultimately decide this case.