MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A civil rights organization is challenging Alabama's ban on same-sex marriages and refusal to recognize those marriages legally performed in other states.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit Thursday seeking to overturn Alabama's 1998 Marriage Protection Act and the 2005 Sanctity of Marriage Amendment to the state's constitution.
The SPLC filed the suit on the basis that Alabama's Marriage Protection Act and Sanctity of Marriage Amendment violate the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
"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."
The SPLC filed the suit on behalf of Paul Hard, who was legally married to David Fancher in Massachusetts. Fancher was later killed in a car wreck in Montgomery.
The SPLC says Hard is demanding his rightful share from the proceeds of a pending wrongful death suit and wants the State of Alabama to correct a death certificate for his late husband naming him as the surviving spouse.
"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," Hard, who is an Alabama citizen, explained. "Marriages are significant, and my marriage is due the same respect as any other."
Governor Robert Bentley's office released the following statement on the lawsuit Thursday:
"Governor Bentley will fight the merits of this lawsuit. Like most Alabamians, the Governor strongly believes in the traditional definition of marriage, as being between a man and woman. He will work every day to continue to protect the sanctity of marriage in Alabama."