Judge rules to dismiss gay inmates case until later date
April 20 2004 12:00 AM ET
An Alabama judge has dismissed the case of two male inmates who sued the state seeking a same-sex marriage. The ruling Monday left them the option of pursuing the suit when they get out of prison. The inmates, Daruis Chambers and Jonathan Jones, had filed an April 13 motion to place their suit on inactive status until they complete their sentences.
Montgomery circuit judge Truman Hobbs Jr., in dismissing the suit, ruled that it can be refiled whenever they wish. 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 from Jefferson County. Jones, 27, is serving 20-year sentences for first-degree robbery and first-degree kidnapping from Mobile County. Both men are eligible to be considered for parole or early release in 2005, when they say they will continue litigation.
In their motion, they cited unwanted media "frenzy" and fear of separation by the Department of Corrections as reasons to postpone the lawsuit.
About the time the motion was filed, Jones sent letters to the Mobile Register and the attorney general's office asking to be removed from the lawsuit and saying he was not gay. In a letter, with a spelling error, Johnson wrote to Assistant Attorney General Sandra Speakman: "I no longer want to take part in this suit. I am a hetrosexual male and I feel as if this behavior is totally against my character."
Hobb's clerk on Monday said Jones had not filed a request in court asking for his name to be removed from the lawsuit.
The inmates, acting as their own attorney, sued the state on April 9, arguing that having a 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.
The state contends that that no fundamental right to same-sex marriage exists under the constitution and that inmates are forbidden to engage in sexual activity in prison anyway. The attorney general's office did not immediately comment on the Monday's ruling.