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Marriage Equality

Marriage Recognition Suit Filed in Alabama

Marriage Recognition Suit Filed in Alabama


A suit filed in federal court on behalf of a gay widower seeks to overturn the state's statutory and constitutional bans on recognition of same-sex marriages.

Another red state is facing a challenge to its ban on same-sex marriage, with a suit brought in U.S. District Court in Alabama.

The Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center today announced it was filing suit on behalf of Paul Hard, whose Massachusetts marriage to David Fancher was not recognized by Alabama, where the men lived. Fancher was killed in a car accident in 2011; the hospital where he was taken initially denied Hard any information about him because Hard was not considered "family," and the funeral director cited Alabama law in insisting that Fancher's death certificate list him as unmarried.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, seeks to overturn a 1998 statute and a 2005 state constitutional amendment banning recognition of same-sex marriages. It also seeks a fair share for Hard of the proceeds in a wrongful-death suit he filed, and the issuance of a corrected death certificate for Fancher, listing Hard as the surviving spouse.

The two men were married in Massachusetts in May 2011, and the accident occurred the following August. Fancher's vehicle collided with a large truck that had overturned as a result of a previous accident and was blocking the northbound lanes of an interstate highway just north of Montgomery. Hard is suing the trucking companies involved, but because he state does not recognize his marriage to Fancher, he cannot be a beneficiary of the suit.

"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," SPLC deputy legal director David C. Dinielli said in a press release. These purposes are improper and unconstitutional. Alabama must treat its LGBT citizens with equal dignity and respect under the law."

Challenges to same-sex marriage bans have also recently been filed in Missouri and Louisiana.

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