ACLU of Ohio Challenges Madison County Judge's Practice of Denying Marriage Licenses to Inmates

In a letter to officials in Madison County, Ohio, the ACLU of Ohio argues Probate Judge Christopher Brown's practice of denying marriage licenses to inmates is unconstitutional.

“Madison County is essentially enforcing a ban on legal marriage,” Elizabeth Bonham, staff attorney at the ACLU of Ohio, said in a press release. “An individual’s incarceration status does not disqualify them from the right to wed.”

About 4,700 men are incarcerated in Madison County between two facilities — Madison Correctional Institution and London Correction Institution. While the ACLU has received recent complaints from prisoners, it's unclear how many have been effected.

Attempts by the Columbus Dispatch seeking comment or clarification from the judge were unsuccessful — the court’s chief deputy clerk, Lynne Pulver, told the paper the judge said the office had no comment.

A similar practice in Hamilton County in Cincinnati was targeted by the ACLU earlier this year. The policy was changed within two weeks of the organization's letter to the probate court there.

“Madison County is explicitly denying people marriage licenses because they are incarcerated. The right to marry is fundamental in the United States – plain and simple – yet policies like this reinforce the erasure and oppression of incarcerated people. There is no justification for this marriage ban and the ACLU is calling on Madison County to end its practice immediately,” Bonham said.
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