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Judge tells state to stop blocking prisoners' right to get married

By Star Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 2:23 p.m. HST, Aug 2, 2012

A federal judge ruled today that the state cannot interfere with prisoners’ right to marry.

U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway issued a 28-page order granting a court order requested by four women who said in their lawsuit that state Department of Public Safety officials repeatedly denied their applications to marry their fiances, who are inmates in an Arizona prison.

The preliminary injunction issued by the judge orders state officials to stop interfering with their rights to marry, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, which represented the prisoners.

“We are delighted that our clients can finally marry their fiances,” said Daniel Gluck, ACLU senior staff attorney. “This ruling, however, is just beginning: the ACLU is fighting a long-term pattern of unconstitutional denials of prisoners’ marriages based on subjective reasons well outside the authority of government.”

He said DPS policy changes, threats of lawsuits and a “crystal-clear ruling” from the U.S. Supreme Court could not stop the pattern.

“Sadly, it took this lawsuit to force DPS to follow the law regarding treatment of inmate marriage requests, and we want to make sure that DPS changes its policies — not just for our clients, but for any individual who seeks to marry now and in the future,” Gluck said.

The four women filed the lawsuit in May. It alleged prison officials with unlawful discrimination in deciding who has the right to get married.

Mollway earlier denied requests by the state to dismiss the lawsuit.

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