The Freedom to Marry in Alabama

Winning Marriage: June 26, 2015

The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the freedom to marry nationwide on June 26, 2015, allowing all same-sex couples in Alabama the ability to marry once and for all. The decision followed more than a year of marriage litigation in Alabama, including several weeks of legal weddings in February 2015.

History and the Path to Victory:

  • August 30, 1996: Alabama Governor Fob James issues an executive order banning marriage and denying any recognition for same-sex couples in the state.
  • April 13, 1998: The Alabama legislature passes a state statute restricting marriage to different-sex couples. The statute is signed into law by Governor Fob James.
  • June 6, 2006: ​Opponents of the freedom to marry in Alabama push through Amendment 774, a constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry and any other legal family status. The amendment cements clearly discriminatory language into the Alabama Constitution.
  • 2006-2014: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in Alabama take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • April 2012: Polling in Alabama tracks a marked growth in support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • May 7, 2014: A same-sex couple and private attorneys file a federal legal case seeking the freedom to marry in Alabama, Searcy v. Bentley. Read the initial complaint – and meet the plaintiffs. In the same year, and in 2015, several other cases are filed, building momentum for marriage in the courts.
  • January 23, 2015: U.S. District Court Judge Callie V. Granade rules in favor of the freedom to marry in Searcy v. Strange and later Strawser v. Strange, striking down Alabama's ban on same-sex couples from marrying. Judge Granade issues a brief stay on the ruling, and opponents request an extension on the stay from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Read the ruling in Searcy and Strawser.
  • February 2, 2015: The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denies the request for a stay in Searcy v. Strange. Opponents file a request for the stay extension from the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • February 9, 2015: The U.S. Supreme Court denies a request to stay the Alabama marriage ruling, allowing the decision to take effect. Same-sex couples begin marrying in nearly every Alabama county.
  • March 3, 2015: Judge Granade’s ruling for the freedom to marry in Alabama is put on hold when the Alabama Supreme Court issues a conflicting decision in a case brought by marriage opponents. Read the Alabama Supreme Court's out-of-step ruling.
  • May 21, 2015: Judge Granade issues an injunction in her ruling, ordering all probate judges to issue licenses to same-sex couples. She stays the injunction pending the United States Supreme Court’s ruling on the question of the freedom to marry.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage for same-sex couples, returning the freedom to marry to Alabama once and for all.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage:

  • Equality Alabama works to advance full equality and civil rights for all the people of Alabama through education and action.
  • The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization working on a variety of LGBT issues. NCLR served as counsel in the Strawser v. Strange case.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center is a national legal organization committed to civil rights for all Americans. SPLC served as counsel in the Hard v. Bentley case.
  • The ACLU of Alabama has worked on a variety of civil rights issues in Alabama, including the freedom to marry. The ACLU served as counsel in the Aaron-Brush v. Bentley case.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.