Hard v. Bentley
On February 13, 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit in Alabama on behalf of a man seeking recognition as the surviving spouse of another man. The lawsuit 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.
The Southern Poverty Law Center explains more of Paul and David's story. 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."
Aaron-Brush v. Bentley
On June 10, 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a new federal lawsuit in Alabama, Aaron-Brush v. Bentley, on behalf of a same-sex couple seeking legal respect for their marriage, performed in Massachusetts in 2012. The lawsuit argues that a constitutional amendment in Alabama banning same-sex couples from marriage and denying respect for marriage licenses received in other states violates the United States Constitution.
The plaintiff couple is April and Ginger Aaron-Bush of Birmingham, AL. April and Ginger have been together for more than 17 years and legally married in Massachusetts in 2012, on the 15th anniversary of becoming a couple.
April explained, "The word marriage, in itself, brings validity and respect to any committed relationship. One's marriage status shouldn't change simply by crossing state lines. Gay couples seek to be married for the very same reasons that opposite-sex couples choose to be married - love, honor and commitment."
Searcy v. Bentley
On May 7, 2014, a same-sex couple in Alabama filed a federal lawsuit, Searcy v. Bentley, seeking legal respect for their marriage license.
The plaintiffs in the case, filed by private attorneys, are Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand from Mobile, Alabama. The women have been together for more than 14 years. They got married in California in 2008.
Together, they are raising a young son, Khaya, who was born in 2005. Since Alabama does not respect the couple as married, Searcy, the non-biological bother, is not allowed to legally adopt her own son.
She said today: "I am a parent in every way to our son, but legally I am still considered a stranger. We just want our son to have the same protections and securities as other Alabama families."
Richmond & Richmond v. Madison County Circuit Clerk
In March 2013, a same-sex couple filed a petition for the dissolution of their marriage in Alabama, and on March 12, the case was dismissed. It is now under appeal. The petition requests recognition for their out-of-state marriage for the purpose of filing the divorce and, in effect, challenges the constitutionality of Alabama’s denial of respect for legal marriages.
The uncontested divorce petition was filed in Madison County, Alabama Circuit Court on behalf of Shrie Michelle Richmond & Kirsten Allysse Richmond, who married in Iowa in 2012. Under Alabama law, it is unclear whether the plaintiffs' out-of-state marriage can be terminated, because Alabama does not respect marriages between same-sex couples.