Battle for marriage rights being fought in prison

BY admin

April 14 2004 12:00 AM ET

Two male inmates at Fountain Prison near Atmore, Ala., have sued the state in hopes of getting married, despite a prohibition in state law and no precedent for a married couple behind bars. "We certainly wouldn't condone this type of marriage," prison spokesman Brian Corbett said Monday. The inmates, Daruis Chambers and Jonathan Jones, acted as their own attorneys in the suit. They argue that the state law banning same-sex marriages violates their constitutional rights of due process and free speech. "This court must not allow the alleged sexual morals of a society filled with bias to be the scales of balance," they wrote in their five-page lawsuit.

In response, Atty. Gen. Troy King's staff argued that nothing in the federal constitution requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. "The law of our state protects and preserves the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and this law is consistent with the U.S. Constitution and with rulings of courts throughout the nation," King said Monday. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year in the Lawrence v. Texas case that states can't criminalize consenting sex "common to a homosexual lifestyle." The two inmates cite that as the direction the courts are headed in gay rights issues. In response, King said prison inmates do retain some constitutional rights, but other rights--including sex between inmates--may be restricted for safety and other legitimate concerns.

Montgomery circuit judge Truman Hobbs Jr. has scheduled a hearing for 3 p.m. Wednesday on the attorney general's request to dismiss the suit. If Hobbs dismisses it, Chambers and Jones may have to wait awhile before they can live together as an unmarried couple outside prison. Chambers, 34, is serving a 10-year sentence for second-degree theft of property and a 15-year sentence for second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. Jones, 27, is serving 20-year sentences for first-degree robbery and first-degree kidnapping. Both men are eligible to be considered for parole or early release in 2005.

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