MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed suit challenging policies in 54 of Alabama's 67 counties that prevent immigrants who can't prove they are in the country legally from marrying.
The lawsuit is separate from the SPLC's challenge of Alabama's new law cracking down on illegal immigrants.
The SPLC's legal director, Mary Bauer, said many of the counties had policies barring issuance of marriage licenses to illegal immigrants before the new immigration law passed the Legislature.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of U.S. citizen Linda Smith and an immigrant identified only as John Doe in the lawsuit. Smith has lived with the undocumented man for nine years and wants to become married to him. "Doe provides companionship and critical financial support to Smith and their family, including Smith's two children and grandchild," the SPLC said in a statement.
The suit says the couple was unable to get a license in Montgomery County.
Bauer cited official opinions by the Alabama Attorney General's office from 2004 in which it was stated "a marriage license can be issued to an applicant who is not a United States citizen." Bauer also said a 2008 AG opinion concluded a "social security number is not a required element for a person to receive a marriage license."
"Marriage licenses should be issued after a couple has professed their commitment to each other, not upon the showing of a nine-digit number," said Freddy Rubio, co–counsel on the case. "Hispanic immigrants share the same religious and family values with Alabamians. We value living with our partner within marriage. This type of policy undermines those traditional values."
The chief clerk for Montgomery County Probate Court, Wells Robinson, told WSFA 12 News the clerk's office had not heard about the law suit and would not comment on it at this time.
The list of counties involved in the lawsuit include: