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Alabama man whose spouse was killed in car wreck is suing to overturn state's gay marriage laws

Paul Hard wants to be listed as surviving spouse on death certificate and proceeds from pending wrongful death lawsuit
Paul_Hard (right) with David_Fancher
Photo courtesy of Southern Poverty Law Center

A federal lawsuit has been filed by a surviving spouse who is challenging Alabama's laws banning gay marriage.

Paul Hard is fighting for his 2011 Massachusetts marriage to David Fancher to be recognized in Alabama, the state the couple was living in when Fancher was killed in a car crash in 2012.

The lawsuit, filed on Hard's behalf by the Southern Poverty Law Center, seeks to overturn the Alabama's Marriage Protection Act, a 1998 law that bans the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states.

The suit also seeks to overturn the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment which in 2005 made the ban part of the state constitution.

Hard is demanding that Fancer's death certificate be corrected to list him as the surviving spouse and that he receive his share of any proceeds from a pending wrongful death suit he has filed.

Fancher died after being brought to the hospital following a collision in the dark with a large truck strewn across the northbound lanes of Interstate 65 north of Montgomery.

'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 said in a statement. 'Marriages are significant, and my marriage is due the same respect as any other.'

Hard is suing the trucking companies involved in the wreck.  But he cannot receive a share of the proceeds if successful with the suit because he cannot be deemed the surviving spouse in Alabama.

This despite Fancher's will naming Hard as the sole beneficiary.

David C. Dinielli, deputy legal director for the law center, calls this 'unconstitutional.'

'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,'  Dinielli said in a statement.

'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,' Dinielli added.

'These purposes are improper and unconstitutional. Alabama must treat its LGBT citizens with equal dignity and respect under the law.'

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