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SPLC lawsuit seeks to overturn Alabama’s gay marriage laws

By Gary Lloyd

The Southern Poverty Law Center on Thursday announced a federal lawsuit challenging Alabama’s Marriage Protection Act and Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, seeks to overturn the state’s Marriage Protection Act, a 1998 law that bans the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states, and the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, which enshrined this ban in the constitution in 2005.

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The suit demands that Paul Hard receive his share of the proceeds from a pending wrongful death suit, and that Alabama issue a corrected death certificate for David Fancher that lists Hard as the surviving spouse. Fancher died in a car accident in 2011. The two were married.

“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,” said David C. Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director. “This is unconstitutional.”

Hard and Fancher were married in Massachusetts in May 2011, and Fancher died in a Prattville hospital the following August while the two were living in Montgomery. Hard is now suing the trucking companies involved in the wreck. Fancher had collided in the dark with a large truck strewn across the northbound lanes of Interstate 65 north of Montgomery.

In Alabama, however, proceeds from a wrongful death case must be distributed pursuant to the laws of intestate succession.

“Southerners are generally good-hearted people and will recognize when a person is being unfairly treated in life’s worst moments,” Hard said. “Most married couples take for granted that if tragedy strikes they can proceed through the worst of times without the state saying at every turn that their marriage doesn’t even exist. Marriages are significant, and my marriage is due the same respect as any other.”

Contact Gary Lloyd at and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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