Strawser v. State of Alabama
ORDER re: Plfs' 15 Motion for Preliminary Injunction & Permanent Injunction. Court ORDERS that the Alabama Attny Gen is prohibited from enforcing the Alabama laws which prohibit same-sex marriage as set out. Court STAYS execution of this in junction for 14 days to allow Dft to seek a further stay pending appeal in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. If no action by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to extend or lift the stay with that time period, this stay will be lifted on 2/9/15. Signed by Judge Callie V. S. Granade on 1/26/2015. (copies mailed to Plfs on 1/26/15) (tot)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JAMES N. STRAWSER and JOHN
LUTHER STRANGE, in his official
capacity as Attorney General for
the State of Alabama,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 14-0424-CG-C
This matter is before the court on Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary and
permanent injunction. (Doc. 15). An evidentiary hearing was held and sworn
testimony was offered by Plaintiffs in support of their motion on December 18, 2014.
For the reasons stated below, the court finds that Plaintiffs are entitled to
preliminary injunctive relief.
The decision to grant or deny a preliminary injunction “is within the sound
discretion of the district court...” Palmer v. Braun, 287 F.3d 1325, 1329 (11th Cir.
2002). This court may grant a preliminary injunction only if the plaintiff
demonstrates each of the following prerequisites: (1) a substantial likelihood of
success on the merits; (2) a substantial threat irreparable injury will occur absent
issuance of the injunction; (3) the threatened injury outweighs the potential damage
the required injunction may cause the non-moving parties; and (4) the injunction
would not be adverse to the public interest. Id., 287 F.3d at 1329; see also
McDonald’s Corp. v. Robertson, 147 F.3d. 1301, 1306 (11th Cir. 1998). “In this
Circuit, ‘[a] preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy not to be
granted unless the movant clearly established the “burden of persuasion” ‘ as to the
four requisites.” McDonald’s Corp., 147 F.3d at 1306; All Care Nursing Service, Inc.
v. Bethesda Memorial Hospital, Inc., 887 F.2d 1535, 1537 (11th Cir. 1989)(a
preliminary injunction is issued only when “drastic relief” is necessary.
This case is brought by a same-sex couple, James Strawser and John
Humphrey, who have been denied the right to a legal marriage under the laws of
Alabama. The couple resides in Mobile, Alabama and participated in a church
sanctioned marriage ceremony in Alabama. Strawser and Humphrey applied for a
marriage license in Mobile County, Alabama, but were denied.
Strawser testified that he has health issues that will require surgery that
will put his life at great risk. Strawser’s mother also has health issues and requires
assistance. Prior to previous surgeries, Strawser had given Humphrey a medical
power of attorney, but was told by the hospital where he was receiving medical
treatment that they would not honor the document because Humphrey was not a
family member or spouse. Additionally, Strawser is very concerned that Humphrey
be permitted to assist Strawser’s mother in all of her affairs if Strawser does not
Plaintiffs contend that Alabama’s marriage laws violate their rights to Due
Process, Equal Protection and the free exercise of religion. This court has
determined in another case, Searcy v. Strange, SDAL Civil Action No. 14-00208-CGN, that Alabama’s laws prohibiting and refusing to recognize same-sex marriage
violate the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment to the United States. In Searcy, this court found that the Sanctity of
Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act restrict the
Plaintiffs’ fundamental marriage right and do not serve a compelling state interest.
The Attorney General of Alabama has asserted the same grounds and arguments in
defense of this case as he did in the Searcy case. Although the Plaintiffs in this case
seek to marry in Alabama, rather than have their marriage in another state
recognized, the court adopts the reasoning expressed in the Searcy case and finds
that Alabama’s laws violate the Plaintiffs’ rights for the same reasons. Alabama’s
marriage laws violate Plaintiffs’ rights under the Due Process Clause and Equal
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
by prohibiting same-sex marriage. Said laws are unconstitutional.
As such, Plaintiffs have met the preliminary injunction factors. Plaintiffs’
inability to exercise their fundamental right to marry has caused them irreparable
harm which outweighs any injury to defendant. See Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347,
373, 96 S.Ct. 2673, 49 L.Ed.2d 547 (1976) (holding that deprivation of constitutional
rights “unquestionably constitutes irreparable harm.”). Moreover, Strawser’s
inability to have Humphrey make medical decisions for him and visit him in the
hospital as a spouse present a substantial threat of irreparable injury.
Additionally, “it is always in the public interest to protect constitutional rights.”
Phelps–Roper v. Nixon, 545 F.3d 685, 690 (8th Cir. 2008). Therefore, the Plaintiffs
have met their burden for issuance of a preliminary injunction against the
enforcement of state marriage laws prohibiting same-sex marriage.
Accordingly, the court hereby ORDERS that the Alabama Attorney General
is prohibited from enforcing the Alabama laws which prohibit same-sex marriage.
This injunction binds the defendant and all his officers, agents, servants and
employees, and others in active concert or participation with any of them, who
would seek to enforce the marriage laws of Alabama which prohibit same-sex
Defendant stated at the hearing that if the court were to grant Plaintiffs’
motion, Defendant requests a stay of the injunction pending an appeal. As it did in
the Searcy case, the Court hereby STAYS execution of this injunction for fourteen
days to allow the defendant to seek a further stay pending appeal in the Eleventh
Circuit Court of Appeals. If no action is taken by the Eleventh Circuit Court of
Appeals to extend or lift the stay within that time period, this stay will be lifted on
February 9, 2015.
DONE and ORDERED this 26th day of January, 2015.
/s/ Callie V. S. Granade
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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