Strawser v. State of Alabama
ORDER DENYING 101 Motion to Dismiss filed by Dft Luther Strange as set out. Signed by Judge Callie V. S. Granade on 4/24/2015. (tot)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JAMES N. STRAWSER, et al.,
LUTHER STRANGE, in his official
capacity as Attorney General for
the State of Alabama, et al.,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 14-0424-CG-C
This matter is before the court on the motion of Defendant Luther Strange to
dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b) (Doc. 101), and Plaintiffs’ opposition (Doc. 105). For
the reasons explained below, the court finds that Strange’s motion to dismiss should
Standing is an Article III doctrine limiting the jurisdiction of the federal
courts to actual “cases” and “controversies.” Socialist Workers Party v. Leahy, 145
F.3d 1240, 1244 (11th Cir. 1998). In order to establish standing, a plaintiff “must
demonstrate injury in fact, causation, and redressability.” I.L. v. Alabama, 739 F.3d
1273, 1278 (11th Cir .2014). As the parties invoking this court’s jurisdiction,
Plaintiffs have the burden of establishing standing. See Lujan v. Defenders of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). There are three requirements for standing:
First, the plaintiff must have suffered an ‘injury in fact’—an invasion of a legally
protected interest that is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or
imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical. Second, there must be a causal
connection between the injury and the conduct complained of. Third, it must be
likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a
United States v. Hays, 515 U.S. 737, 742–43 (1995).
Attorney General Strange argues that it has become evident that he does not
enforce marriage laws, did not cause the Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries, and cannot
redress the Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries. Specifically, Attorney General Strange
asserts that he has no authority to issue marriage licenses and has no authority to
address their alleged injuries as a member of the Executive Branch of Alabama
government. Plaintiffs, on the other hand, assert that they seek more than the
issuance of marriage licenses. Plaintiffs have broadly challenged all Alabama laws
that prohibit marriage by same-sex couples or that prohibit recognition by the State
of the marriages of same-sex couples. As the Attorney General of Alabama, Strange
has the responsibility of appearing in federal courts “in any case in which the state
may be interested in the result.” ALA. CODE § 36-15-1(2). Strange has appeared in
several cases to defend the validity of Alabama’s laws that prohibit same-sex
marriage. Strange admitted in a Northern District case that he “maintains
enforcement authority regarding the Alabama Marriage Prohibitions and their
application to conduct of the State and its subdivisions and court system.” AaronBush v. Strange, Case No. 1:14-cv-01091-RDP (N.D. Ala.) (Docs. 1, ¶ 18; Doc. 13, ¶
The court finds that Plaintiffs have met their burden of demonstrating
standing against Attorney General Strange. As this court has previously explained,
this case is about more than the issuance of formal pieces of paper that state that
the Plaintiff couples are married. If Plaintiffs’ marriages are not recognized as
valid in Alabama then their marriage licenses will be inconsequential. Plaintiffs’
alleged injuries cannot be fully redressed by the other defendants in this case.
Probate judges can issue marriage licenses to the Plaintiffs, but for their marriages
to have any meaning, the Attorney General must recognize those marriages as
valid. The laws of Alabama expressly state that “[a] marriage contracted between
individuals of the same sex is invalid in this state” and “[t]he State of Alabama shall
not recognize as valid any marriage of parties of the same sex that occurred or was
alleged to have occurred as a result of the law of any jurisdiction regardless of
whether a marriage license was issued.” ALA. CODE § 30-1-19. Thus, a Plaintiff’s
receipt of a marriage license from a probate judge will not result in a valid marriage
absent the Attorney General being bound by the rulings in this case.
If not subject to an injunction, Strange could even initiate or direct that
actions be filed against the Plaintiffs for falsely declaring their marital status in
state forms. See e.g. ALA. CODE § 40-18-27(d) (prohibiting false statements in tax
returns); ALA. CODE. § 22-1-11 (false statement in applications for Medicaid).
Strange could also prosecute any person who performed a marriage ceremony for a
same-sex couple. See ALA. CODE § 30-1-11 (penalizing solemnization of marriage
without a license).
Federal courts in other states have found standing existed to sue the state
Attorney General in suits asserting constitutional claims against state laws that
prohibited same-sex marriage. See e.g. Baskin v. Bogan, 12 F.Supp.3d 1144 (S.D.
Ind.) aff’d, 766 F.3d 648 (7th Cir. 2014), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 316(2014); Citizens
for Equal Protection v. Bruning, 455 F.3d 859 (8th Cir. 2006). For instance, the
Baskin court found that because the plaintiffs had broadly challenged Indiana’s law
that prohibited same-sex marriage and the Attorney General had broad powers to
enforce criminal statutes that could result in criminal penalties, that the Attorney
General had a sufficient connection and role in enforcing such statutes for the
plaintiff couples to have standing against him. Baskin, 12 F.Supp.3d at 1152-53. As
in the Baskin case, the Plaintiffs in this case have broadly challenged Alabama’s
laws that prohibit same-sex marriage and the Attorney General has broad powers
to enforce statutes that provide criminal penalties relating to same-sex marriages.
In light of all of the above, the court concludes that Plaintiffs have met their
burden of showing that they have standing against Attorney General Strange.
Accordingly, the motion of Defendant Luther Strange to dismiss pursuant to Rule
12(b) (Doc. 101), is DENIED.
DONE and ORDERED this 23rd day of April, 2015.
/s/ Callie V. S. Granade
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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