MALDEF Secures Settlement with Ottawa County to Protect Latino Michigan Couple's Right to Marry

MALDEF reaches favorable settlement agreement with Ottawa County resulting in a change to their policy regarding the issuance of marriage licenses to individual without social security numbers.

June 15, 2010

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Today, MALDEF Midwest Regional Counsel Ricardo Meza announced the successful settlement of a federal class action lawsuit against Ottawa County regarding the county’s previous marriage license policy that infringed upon a couple’s fundamental right to marry. As part of the settlement agreement, Ottawa country agreed to revise its policy to allow any individual seeking to be married that does not have a social security number to marry so long as that person fills out an affidavit stating, under penalty of perjury, that he or she does not have a social security number.

Meza stated, “We are very pleased to announce the resolution of this matter, and we believe the new policy protects the fundamental right to marry for Latino couples in Ottawa County, regardless of immigration status.”

The settlement reached by both parties was based on a class action complaint that MALDEF filed on May 11, 2010, against the County and County Clerk, Daniel C. Krueger. The complaint alleged that Ottawa County’s policy of denying marriage licenses to couples without social security numbers was unconstitutional and violated Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Less than one month after the complaint was filed, both parties reached a settlement of their dispute obviating any need for further litigation. Additionally, the County has agreed to pay plaintiffs’ damages and attorney’s fees.

MALDEF Staff Attorney Alejandro Aixala noted that, “Ottawa County’s revised policy ensures its future practices comply with the U.S. Constitution as well as with federal and state laws regarding the collection of social security numbers on marriage licenses from those individuals who have been issued them.”

The plaintiffs in this matter were also represented by Robert Anthony Alvarez of the Avanti Law Group.

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund