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Roll, Rainbow Tide! Alabama Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down

Elated: Cari Search and Kimberly McKeand react to Friday's ruling. (WKRG screen grab)

Elated: Cari Search and Kimberly McKeand react to Friday’s ruling. (WKRG screen grab)

A federal judge on Friday struck down Alabama’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, declaring it a violation of LGBT individuals’ constitutional rights.

US District Judge Callie V.S. Granade ruled in Searcy v. Strange that Alabama’s Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and Alabama Marriage Protection Act are unconstitutional because they violate the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment, the Associated Press reports.

Granade ruled in favor of Mobile couple Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, who have been together for 15 years and were legally married in California in 2008. AL.com reported in October 2012 that the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals had upheld a decision by Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis to reject Searcy’s bid to legally adopt McKeand’s son, then age 6, who the couple raised together.

Friday’s ruling states Searcy cannot be denied the right to adopt the child. Granade rejected the notion that equal marriage rights for LGBT Alabamans somehow harm children.

“If anything, Alabama’s prohibition of same-sex marriage detracts from its goal of promoting optimal environments for children,” Granade wrote. “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.”

Searcy was elated at the news of the ruling.

“It’s amazing. I was not expecting it at all [on Friday],” she told AL.com.”Happy, happy news. I kind of expected them to sit on it because of the Supreme Court,” she continued. “It’s so encouraging that we got a positive ruling from our home state.”

“Love did win,” Searcy added.

LGBT individuals and advocates in Alabama and across America rejoiced at Friday’s news.

“Judge Granade’s ruling today affirms what we already know to be true — that all loving, committed Alabama couples should have the right to marry,” Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said in a statement. “As the US Supreme Court prepares to hear a landmark case on marriage equality, today’s ruling joins the dozens and dozens of others that have recognized that committed and loving gay and lesbian couples deserve equal treatment under the law.”

“Welcome to marriage equality — and the 21st century, Alabama!” commented New York City resident Robert Stribley on WSFA.com.

“We’ve fought this battle for so many years,” Mobile bartender Bob Brunson told AL.com. “I think it’s incredible and very exciting, one step closer to equal rights.”

But many people in the deeply conservative and profoundly religious state expressed their disappointment, even disgust, at the ruling.

“Lord, what is happening to our country?” wondered Montgomery retiree Lloyd McKenny in a comment posted on WSFA.com. “God help us!”

“God’s word is clear; marriage is between a man and a woman,” opined Annie Cope Blackmon, director of New Life Christian Academy in Troy, Alabama.

Republican Governor Robert Bentley issued the following statement:

It is outrageous when a single unelected and unaccountable federal judge can overturn the will of millions of Alabamians who stand in firm support of the Sanctity of Marriage Act. The Legislature will encourage a vigorous appeals process, and we will continue defending the Christian conservative values that make Alabama a special place to live.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange filed a motion Friday evening asking Granade to stay her motion until the US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals or the US Supreme Court delivers a ruling on the issue.

“We are disappointed and are reviewing the Federal District Court’s decision,” attorney general spokesman Mike Lewis told AL.com via email. “We expect to ask for a stay of the court’s judgment pending the outcome of the US Supreme Court’s ruling which will ultimately decide this case.”

If Granade agrees to issue a stay, Searcy will have to continue waiting to adopt the boy, and same-sex couples will not yet be permitted to marry. If her ruling stands, Alabama will become the 37th state, plus the District of Columbia and a handful of Native American tribes, to legalize same-sex marriage.

The tide of LGBT marriage equality seems to be rolling inexorably from coast to coast — a year ago, only 17 states had legalized gay marriage.

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