2015 could be a watershed year for gay rights, as the Supreme Court will issue a definitive ruling on same-sex marriage this spring. But first, let's celebrate another marriage restriction biting the dust: On Friday, a federal judge struck down Alabama's same-sex marriage ban, saying it violated the equal protection and due process rights of gay and lesbian couples. However, it's uncertain at this time if same-sex couples will be able to apply for marriage licenses in the state, as the Alabama Attorney General has requested the court to stay its ruling until the Supreme Court issues its decision later this year.
U.S. District Judge Callie Granade overturned both the Alabama Marriage Protection Act and the ensuing state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex unions in a 10-page decision. The case was brought to the district court by couple Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand. The state had previously barred Searcy from adopting McKeand's biological son, who she had through artificial insemination, even though the two women have been together for more than a decade. Searcy and McKeand were also legally married in California.
Granade claimed the state could not provide a "rational, much less compelling" link between barring same-sex marriage for the purported safety of children and the "biological family structure," writing:
The Attorney General does not explain how allowing or recognizing same-sex marriage between two consenting adults will prevent heterosexual parents or other biological kin from caring for their biological children. He proffers no justification for why it is that the provisions in question single out same-sex couples and prohibit them, and them alone, from marrying in order to meet that goal. Alabama does not exclude from marriage any other couples who are either unwilling or unable to biologically procreate. 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 judge added that Alabama's gay marriage bans were actually counterproductive, as it undermined the state's goal of "promoting optimal environments for children." So much for those purported family values, Granade says:
Those children currently being raised by same-sex parents in Alabama are just as worthy of protection and recognition by the State as are the children being raised by opposite-sex parents. Yet Alabama’s Sanctity laws harms the children of same-sex couples for the same reasons that the Supreme Court found that the Defense of Marriage Act harmed the children of same-sex couples.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement on Friday that he was "disappointed" by the ruling. Jennifer Ardis, a spokesperson for the governor, reiterated that Alabama citizens "voted in a constitutional amendment to define marriage between a man and a woman."
Meanwhile, plaintiff Cari Searcy told AL.com that Friday's news was "amazing" and a total surprise. "I was not expecting it at all," she told the news source. "It's so encouraging that we got a positive ruling from our home state."
According to Freedom to Marry, Friday's decision was the 60th pro-gay marriage ruling to be handed down since June 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in 35 states. Gay couples can also receive marriage licenses in Florida, where a same-sex marriage ruling is on appeal at the 11th Circuit Court. Attorneys for Alabama are looking for a stay from Granade, which means same-sex marriage would not yet be allowed in the state. The judge has yet to issue her decision on the stay request.
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