Southern Poverty Law Center files federal marriage lawsuit in Alabama
February 13, 2014
Today, February 13, 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a new federal marriage lawsuit in Alabama on behalf of a man seeking recognition as the surviving spouse of another man. The lawsuit, Hard v. Bentley, challenges the constitutionality of Alabama's denial of respect for legal out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples and seeks to invalidate provisions of Alabama’s Marriage Protection Act and the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment that ban recognition of married same-sex couples.
The plaintiff in the case is Paul Hard, who married Charles David Fancher, Alabama natives, in Massachusetts. David was killed in a 2011 car accident just north of Montgomery, which resulted in a wrongful death lawsuit. Because of Alabama's anti-marriage laws, Paul is now unable to be recognized as the surviving spouse, which denies him any share of the proceeds in the suit.
David C. Dinielli, Deputy Legal Director for SPLC, explained further:
Alabama has created two classes of marriages within its borders and deemed one of those classes – marriages between people of the same sex – to be inferior to the other. This is unconstitutional. The only purpose of refusing Paul the right to share in the proceeds from the wrongful death lawsuit is to punish him for having married a man, and to express moral disapproval of this choice. These purposes are improper and unconstitutional. Alabama must treat its LGBT citizens with equal dignity and respect under the law.
The new lawsuit joins 45 other active lawsuits in 25 states where same-sex couples have joined together to file lawsuits seeking the freedom to marry and urging their state to find that anti-marriage laws and constitutional amendments limiting the freedom to marry violate the United States Constitution. In five of these states - Oklahoma, Utah, Ohio, Nevada, and Kentucky - the lawsuit is at the Circuit Court of Appeals level.