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Suit challenges Ala. marriage policy

Oct. 20, 2011 at 3:38 PM
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MONTGOMERY, Ala., Oct. 20 (UPI) -- An Alabama policy requiring couples to prove they are in the United States legally before getting married is arbitrary and unfair, a civil rights group says.

The Southern Policy Law Center filed a class-action lawsuit Wednesday against county probate offices and judges who enforce the policy. The named plaintiffs, Linda Smith and her partner of nine years, identified only as John Doe, are unable to marry because he cannot produce a Social Security card or proof of legal residence, the group says.

While 54 of the state's 67 counties enforce the policy, it is not required by state or federal law, the SPLC said. It goes farther than the strict immigration law the state adopted this year.

"This arbitrary policy attacks one of the most fundamental rights in this country -- the right to marry," said SPLC Legal Director Mary Bauer. "There is no reason why anyone should have to produce their 'papers' before they say, 'I do.'"

In court papers, the SPLC cites two opinions from the state Attorney General's Office. In 2004, the office said citizenship is not a requirement for getting married in Alabama, and in 2008 that a Social Security card is not required.

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