Lawsuit targets same-sex ‘marriage’ ban in Alabamacomment (0)
February 27, 2014
Voter-approved marriage amendments are currently under fire in several states, including Alabama.
Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in Montgomery sued the state in mid-February on behalf of Paul Hard, a Montgomery resident and a graduate of the University of Mobile and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He also is reportedly a former Baptist preacher, but attempts by The Alabama Baptist to receive further information from Hard about his pastoral history were unsuccessful at press time.
The suit is in response to the way Hard was treated following the death of his “husband,” David Fancher, who died following a car accident in 2011. Hard wants to claim the estate of Fancher and seek the proceeds in a wrongful death case as well as have “married” listed on Fancher’s death certificate, according to media reports.
According to the Anniston Star, Hard was initially denied by hospital officials any information and the chance to see Fancher after the accident on Interstate 65 in Autauga County on Aug. 1, 2011. Hard and Fancher were “married” in Cape Cod, Mass., for less than three months before the accident.
“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.”
With this case, the SPLC 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 put this ban in the constitution in 2005.
Jennifer Ardis, Gov. Robert Bentley’s communications director, said the governor believes in the “traditional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman” and will work to protect the sanctity of marriage in the state. Bentley has been named as a defendant in the suit, according to the Anniston Star.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange also has been named as a defendant in the case. “The people of Alabama have overwhelmingly decided that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Strange said. “My job is to defend that decision, and I will vigorously do so.”
Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard said the state’s residents believe “marriage in our state exists only between a man and a woman.”
“This lawsuit is part of a coordinated liberal agenda that is designed to erode the conservative Alabama values that the citizens of our state hold close to their hearts.”
Voter-approved marriage amendments also are under fire in Virginia, where a federal judge struck down that state’s protection of traditional marriage by saying it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Fifty-seven percent of Virginia voters approved the amendment in 2006, defining marriage as between one man and one woman, but U.S. District Judge Arenda Allen, an Obama appointee, ruled Feb. 13 that “the right to marry is a rigorously protected fundamental right” for all Americans.
“The right to marry is inseparable from our rights to privacy and intimate association,” Allen wrote.
The judge also concluded, “Our nation’s uneven but dogged journey toward truer and more meaningful freedoms for our citizens has brought us continually to a deeper understanding of the first three words in our Constitution: We the People. We the People have become a broader, more diverse family than once imagined. ... We have arrived upon another moment in history when We the People become more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect.”
Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, called the decision “outrageous and legally flawed.”
“The Constitution cannot be changed by the stroke of a judge’s pen, nor does it bow to a judge’s personal ideology. The overwhelming majority of Virginia voters who make up ‘we the people’ voted to affirm natural marriage,” Staver said.
On appeal, Liberty Counsel will file an amicus brief in the case.
Other actions against state marriage amendments include:
A Kentucky Baptist minister and gay-rights activist filed a lawsuit Feb. 14 claiming the state’s ban on same-sex “marriage” is unconstitutional.
Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard — who with his partner, Dominique James, was fined 1 cent for trespassing in November 2013 for refusing to leave a county clerk’s office after being told they could not apply for a marriage license — asked U.S. District Judge John Heyburn to build on his finding two days earlier that Kentucky must recognize same-sex unions performed legally in other states.
Blanchard leads the True Colors Ministry, founded in 2011 at Highland Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky., as an outreach ministry to members of the LGBTQ community.
He and James and another couple denied marriage licenses by the county clerk in Louisville claim denying them rights available to others violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says that no citizen can be denied equal protection under the law.
In Louisiana, four same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit Feb. 12 challenging Louisiana’s refusal to recognize gay “marriages” performed in other states. The couples claim Louisiana, by restricting marriage to unions of one man and one woman, is violating the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process guarantees, the Shreveport Times reported. Part of their case involves the IRS recognizing same-sex “marriages” but the state of Louisiana recognizing only traditional marriages.
In Missouri, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit asking a state court trial judge to force the state to recognize same-sex “marriages” from other states. Though the lawsuit does not specifically ask the court to invalidate Missouri’s marriage amendment, experts believe the case will lead to its nullification.
In Indiana, legislation protecting traditional marriage has been delayed by lawmakers who have changed their positions.
(TAB, BP, ABP)