Couple denied marriage license because of immigration status

A West Hazleton couple were denied a marriage license because of a policy instituted by Dorothy Stankovic, the Register of Wills for Luzerne County.

Court/Assoc.: US Middle District

Attorneys/Firms: John Grogan (Langer & Grogan, P.C); Seth Kreimer; Mary Catherine Roper & Vic Walczak (ACLU of Pennsylvania); Omar Jadwat, Lucas Guttentag, & Jennifer Chang (ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project)

The ACLU of Pennsylvania and the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project filed a federal lawsuit April 18, 2007, on behalf of a West Hazleton couple who were denied a marriage license because of a policy instituted by Dorothy Stankovic, the Register of Wills for Luzerne County. Heather Buck and Jose Arias-Maravilla's marriage application was rejected because Ms. Stankovic's office would not issue a marriage license to any non-citizen who could provide a current visa or green card. Although Ms. Buck is a U.S. citizen, Mr. Arias did not have a current visa.

Judge Caputo of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania granted the ACLU's request for a preliminary injunction on May 1, 2007, ordering the defendant to give plaintiffs a marriage license. The Register of Wills complied, and the couple was married on May 7, 2007, shortly before Jose was required to return to Mexico. On February 11, 2008, Judge Caputo issued a consent order, which makes permanent his May 1, 2007 order forbidding the Register of Wills from requiring that marriage applicants have a visa or other proof of lawful presence in the United States. The consent order also requires the Register of Wills to publicize the policy change and to pay Heather and Jose $10,000 in damages.

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