ALABAMA — A judge in Montgomery has ordered a new sheriff to ensure that marriage certificates for couples who were forced into forced marriage in Alabama for more than a decade will be released to the public.
The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in August that the state must release the records of all those forced into marriage who died in 2012 or later.
The records, which date back to 1996, were missing from the state’s marriage registry for more the 12 years until 2011.
The judge said that when it comes to the future of the records, the sheriff must make a decision within a week or two.
“The records are going to be a matter of public record,” Montgomery County Circuit Judge John R. McClellan wrote in a ruling that he made after the sheriff refused to release the documents to the Alabama Judicial Council.
“When the sheriff has no plan for how to handle this matter, it is time to make the decision.”
Robert Bentley, a Republican, has vowed to release all records of forced marriages.
He has repeatedly called on the state to release marriage records to the council.
McClannan ruled that the records would be available to the city of Birmingham, which is suing to have them released.
He also ordered that the county release them to the state and the city.
McCLannan ordered the records released immediately so that all of the couples in the county could be released from their forced marriages before the county’s legal battle with the state goes to trial.
McLellan ruled that because the records are in the custody of the county, the county cannot appeal the judge’s order.
McDonald said he would not appeal the ruling.