A federal judge in Mobile has ordered the state Alabama to pay $315,000 in attorney fees and other court costs to the team of civil rights lawyers that successfully litigated one of the two cases that challenged Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage.
In June of 2015, the United States Supreme Court made a landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that struck down state laws across the country prohibiting same-sex marriages — six months after Alabama saw two similar laws overturned by U.S. District Judge Callie V. Granade.Granade’s ruling was the result of Searcy v. Strange, but another case, Strawser v. Strange, also proved successful in challenging Alabama’s “Sanctity of Marriage” laws that year.
Both of those cases were filed by same-sex couples from Mobile County.
After Granade’s 2015 ruling, a confrontation was sparked between the federal judiciary and Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who initially ordered the state probate judges not to issue any marriage licenses for same-sex couples, in defiance of Granade’s order.
However, even after the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the litigation in the Strawser case was prolonged, as state officials continued to resist orders instructing them to comply with the new law of the land.
In June 0f 2016, a year after the Obergefell decision, Granade issued a permanent injunction requiring probate judges in all 67 counties and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to comply with the law by issuing same-sex marriage licenses and recognizing such marriages performed in other states.
As a result of the prolonged action, the civil rights attorneys who litigated the Strawser case for the plaintiffs — many from prominent civil rights organizations — filed a motion to recoup their legal expenses from the state.
After negotiating with those groups, the state agreed to pay $315,000 to the Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC], the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and Heather Fann of Fann Law, LLC.
After those attorneys and the state agreed to the reimbursement, Granade ordered the repayment on Jan. 20.
In a joint statement, Fann said she hoped being required to pay the attorney’s fees would deter Alabama from “any failure to recognize the full rights of our LGBTQ clients in the future, while Scott McCoy, a senior attorney with SPLC, said delaying the ruling ultimately accomplished nothing.
“Alabama’s resistance to marriage equality did nothing but increase the amount of the legal fees,” McCoy said. “It’s unfortunate that taxpayers must now foot the bill.”
Lagniappe reached out to a spokesperson in Strange’s office and was told, “The Attorney General’s Office has no comment.