Two Alabama women filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday seeking to force the state to recognize their out-of-state marriage so they can both be legal parents to their 8-year-old son.
The suit contends that Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage — and refusal to recognize such marriages from other states — violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The plaintiffs, Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, have been a couple for more than 14 years, and have lived in Mobile since 2001. They traveled to California in 2008 to be married there after winning a contest run by the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau.
McKeand gave birth to a son, Khaya, in 2005. He was conceived with the help of a sperm donor. However, the couple's efforts to have Searcy declared Khaya's adoptive parent were rebuffed in the state court system because Alabama does not recognize the couple as spouses.
"I am a parent in every way to our son, but legally I am still considered a stranger," said Searcy. "We just want our son to have the same protections and securities as other Alabama families."
The lawsuit names Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Attorney General Luther Strange as defendants.
"As attorney general, I will vigorously defend the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman," Strange said. "That has been the definition of marriage for the history of western civilization, and Alabamians overwhelmingly voted to incorporate it into our laws."
Alabama is one of 30 states that have passed amendments to their constitutions limiting marriage to male-female unions. Alabama's amendment further stipulates that the state will not recognize any same-sex marriage from any other jurisdiction.
David Kennedy, one of the couple's attorneys, said the result of the law is that Khaya, while raised since birth in a two-parent family, "is not allowed the same legal benefits and protections that any other child would receive in Alabama because he has two moms."
The lawsuit is the latest in a nationwide surge of litigation on behalf of gay and lesbian couples in the 33 states which do not allow same-sex marriage. Advocacy groups say more than 70 lawsuits are pending, including several in which federal judges have struck down state bans.