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."
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.