MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The couple whose lawsuit toppled Alabama’s gay marriage ban said they are grateful, overjoyed and still a little a bit in disbelief.
“We are still trying to take it all in. It’s overwhelming. We’re very grateful. Wow. It happened,” Kim McKeand said.
Cari Searcy and McKeand, along with their now 9-year-old son, filed a lawsuit this year challenging the ban that prevented Alabama from recognizing their California marriage and Searcy as a parent to their son that McKeand birthed.
“It was never about marriage equality for us. It started with me trying to gain parental rights to our son that we created,” Searcy said.
U.S. District Callie V.S. Granade on Friday ruled in the couple’s favor declaring both Alabama’s statutory and constitutional gay marriage bans to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The ruling was the latest in a string of wins in the South for advocates of gay marriage rights, but one that the couple’s friends doubted would happen in conservative Alabama.
“There were so many people who believed it couldn’t happen here,” Searcy said. They got the news Friday with a phone call.
“We three immediately started dancing and doing the happy dance and giggling and laughing and crying and we’ve been celebrating ever since,” McKeand said.
Article continues belowSearcy, 39, and McKeand, 38 are both from Texas and met in college. Searcy, the owner of a video production company, and McKeand, a marketing manager, moved to Mobile 13 years ago.
“Everybody was like why Alabama? We found it, Mobile in particular, to be very inviting and just a great community and we loved it,” Searcy said.
McKeand in 2005 gave birth to a son who was conceived with the help of a sperm donor. The boy was born with a hole in his heart and needed surgery. Searcy said that her status as a non-parent became clear when a nurse said she needed proof of guardianship to show her procedures needed for the boy’s care.
“I was a total legal stranger,” Searcy said.
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Searcy filed an adoption application but said she was denied on the basis that only married couples or single people could adopt. The couple wed in California in 2008. They applied again, but said they were rejected again because of the state’s prohibition on recognizing their marriage.
The judge’s Friday decision was met with sharp criticisms from conservatives in and out of Alabama who called it an affront to state voters who in 2006 overwhelmingly approved putting a prohibition on the recognition of same-sex marriages into the Alabama Constitution.
“This federal judge is throwing out the votes of the people of Alabama and attempting to shut down the debate over marriage. In exercising their right to vote, Alabama voters overwhelmingly sent a message that that they want to see society rebuild and strengthen marriage – not have it redefined by unelected judges,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Washington D.C.-based Family Research Council.
The legal fight is not over, however. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange’s office quickly filed a motion Friday night asking Granade to put her order on hold since the U.S. Supreme Court is supposed to consider the issue of gay marriage later this year.
David Kennedy, a lawyer for the couple, said they will file an objection to the request to stay the order. He said the couple also plans to refile their adoption paperwork first thing Monday.
Additional litigation is almost a certainty. The Alabama Probate Judge Association issued a statement Saturday saying there was nothing in the order to require judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Article continues below“As probate judges, our duty is to issue marriage licenses in accordance with Alabama law and that means we cannot legally issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. The recent federal ruling does not change that,” said Monroe County Probate Judge Greg Norris, the president of the judges’ association.
Searcy and McKeand said despite living in a state considered one of the most conservative in the country, that they received mostly positive support. They said their son has long been aware of their legal fight.
“To him our family has really been no different than any other family. He just knew we had this court thing. He was very happy. He told one of his friends, ‘We changed the law.'” McKeand said.
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