A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down an effort to delay same-sex marriages in Alabama, clearing the way for gay and lesbian couples to wed next week, though a last-minute appeal could create additional delays.
The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a stay request from Alabama Atty. Gen. Luther Strange, who sought to defend the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Strange had called on the appeals court to issue a stay until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on similar cases later this year.
Strange said Tuesday he would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. The justices have rebuffed similar requests in the past.
The Alabama case was brought by Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, a lesbian couple that married in California. Searcy had tried to adopt McKeand's 8-year-old son but was denied on the grounds that the state of Alabama did not recognize her as McKeand’s spouse.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Callie Granade said an amendment to the state's constitution banning the recognition of gay marriage, and another law prohibiting same-sex marriage licenses from being issued, violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
However, Granade put a stay on her decision until Feb. 9 to allow Strange time to appeal. Days later, he appealed to the 11th Circuit and asked to keep the stay in place.
With the appeals court's denial of that request, Alabama is now set to become one of dozens of states that in the last year have made it legal for same-sex couples to marry. It also joins a handful of Southern states, including Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina, where state bans on same-sex marriage have been overturned.
“The freedom to marry is a reflection of Alabama’s values of love and family. We look forward to seeing the first joyful weddings take place for same-sex couples throughout the state, and against this backdrop of happy celebrations,” Equality Alabama board chairman Ben Cooper said Tuesday.
Staff writers Lauren Raab and Christine Mai-Duc contributed to this report.