The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island is suing the state Department of Corrections director on behalf of two inmates and the women they're not allowed to marry.

The ACLU says it filed the lawsuit in federal court Thursday to challenge a 106-year-old statute declaring that inmates serving life sentences at adult correctional institutions are "civilly dead."

State law says these inmates lose all civil rights, including the bond of matrimony. The ACLU says only two other states — New York and Idaho — terminate these rights.

The ACLU is representing Shelby Ferreira of East Providence and inmate Cody-Allen Zab, and Sharen Underwood of Warwick and inmate John Pacheco Jr.

Prison officials say they're following the law as written.

Warwick licensing officials also are named as defendants.