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SPLC files federal challenge to Alabama’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the state

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Alabama state seal

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is filing a federal lawsuit in Alabama today, challenging the state’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the state. The lawsuit seeks to invalidate a state law, the “Marriage Protection Act”, as well as the portions of the “Sanctity of Marriage Amendment”, to the extent those measures prevent the recognition of legally-performed same-sex marriages.

The SPLC is suing on behalf of a man, Paul Hard, who lost his husband in a car accident, leading to a wrongful death lawsuit. Because Alabama law doesn’t recognize their Massachusetts marriage as valid, he was not permitted to have any proceeds from the successful wrongful death suit. The challenge alleges the state’s non-recognition of his legal marriage violates both Due Process and Equal Protection.

Alabama is the latest state in the south to face a marriage equality lawsuit. Same-sex couples have also filed lawsuits in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Florida, while district courts in Oklahoma and Kentucky have struck down portions of the bans in those states.

UPDATE 12:25PM ET: The SPLC has posted its own press release on the lawsuit, with more information on the man who is the plaintiff.


  • 1. davep  |  February 13, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Looking back over the articles here just from this past week…… wow. After 2013 ended with such spectacular successes, I was preparing myself for our progress to slow down a bit in 2014 while all of the states went into a 'wait and see' mode until the 9th ruled on Nevada and the Utah/Oklahoma decision went through appeals. But wow, that's not the case at all, is it? This is amazing. Hats off to the folks here at Eot (the ones who run the site as well as the awesome commenters) for somehow managing to keep tabs on all of this!

    …. And I gotta say, Alabama must has the least imaginative State Seal ever. Really? Just a picture of the state? Kinda like having a State motto like "Alabama – it's a state!"

  • 2. Dr. Z  |  February 13, 2014 at 11:33 am

    There have been a couple of state seals that look like they were designed by kindergarteners.

  • 3. Scottie Thomaston  |  February 13, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Speaking as an Alabamian, I gotta say, perhaps "Alabama – it's a state!" is the best thing they could say about this place. 🙂

  • 4. Reformed  |  February 13, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    How about . . . "Better or Worse than Mississippi? That its debatable should count for something!"

  • 5. FYoung  |  February 13, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    How about: "Alabama, it's a state of mind."

  • 6. Straight Ally #3008  |  February 13, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Dave, that's exactly was I was expecting. I figured Oregon, tops. I had no idea how quickly the court decisions would start rolling in!

  • 7. Jon  |  February 13, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Alabama… it's uh, in between Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida.

  • 8. Lymis  |  February 13, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    And it's got cities! We think!

  • 9. Jon  |  February 13, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Naw, just rivers. Look at all them rivers, y'all!

  • 10. JimT  |  February 13, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Actually, Georgia is between them all and will be the epicenter of the last showdown. The right wing here will will be kicking and screaming all the way to the end.

  • 11. Straight Ally #3008  |  February 13, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    How does a place like Atlanta exist in such a state? It boggles the mind.

  • 12. Rick O.  |  February 13, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    I am surprised, too. Seems the NM Supreme Court and Shelby decisions, which finally called out the elephant in the room (BS arguments and animus) may have caused the judicial class to find some backbone. Will be interesting to see if anyone bucks the trend (50 cents on 5th Circuit).

  • 13. Bruno71  |  February 13, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    I think it was the Windsor decision that gave them most of the backbone. Courts have been interpreting the decision more broadly than I'd imagined they'd have the guts to.

  • 14. JayJonson  |  February 13, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Yes! When Windsor was first announced, it was seen as a rather timid and narrow decision. But it has proven to be powerful. I think the Obama administration's broad interpretation of it has encouraged the courts. Because the Obama office of personnel management and the justice and defense departments announced that they were making broad interpretations of the decision–for example, recognizing married same-sex couples even if they live in non-marriage equality states–they showed that Windsor extended beyond giving federal recognition to the ME states. The courts, so far, have reached the obvious conclusion that the reasoning that led to invalidating federal DOMA also invalidates the state DOMAs.

  • 15. palerobber  |  February 13, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    "Alabama number one exporter of potassium!
    Other states have inferior potassium."

  • 16. KarlS  |  February 13, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    They have 3 kinds of Potassium…K,K and K


  • 17. ebohlman  |  February 13, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Potassium really does have exactly three naturally-occurring isotopes: 39, 40, and 41. So I suppose any exporting state is vulnerable to the joke, but especially Alabama.

    I remember a while back some academic site had a state-by-state guide to some sort of resources. The relevant path component in the URL for Alabama was "/talabama/".

  • 18. Straight Ally #3008  |  February 13, 2014 at 4:34 pm


  • 19. Bruno71  |  February 13, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Alabama, y'all!

  • 20. Bruno71  |  February 13, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    And it looks like we've probably won a much needed delay/possible future bill squashing in Indiana:

  • 21. davep  |  February 13, 2014 at 1:26 pm


  • 22. Bill Naquin  |  February 13, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    That's really good news. No backward momentum- at least for SSM.

  • 23. Mike in Baltimore  |  February 13, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    A word of caution – The News-Sentinel is a very conservative newspaper, even by Indiana standards. The more liberal paper in Fort Wayne is the Journal Gazette, and even then it is not an extreme liberal newspaper, much more middle of the road, but definitely to the left of the NS. Most people in NE Indiana consider the JG the 'newspaper of record' in Fort Wayne, Allen County and NE Indiana, much more so than the NS.

    The JG article on the Indiana Senate action is at:… (The JG is not reporting on Senate passage of the proposed amendment as a completely done deal as the NS is implying. It rather acknowledges that it probably is a done deal.)

    (One example of the difference between the two newspapers – the JG reported on the Watergate break-in right after it happened, then kept reporting on the whole case. The NS tried to avoid any reporting, articles or discussion of the break-in, cover up, and resignation of President Nixon.)

  • 24. Zack12  |  February 13, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Roy Moore is going to blow his top over that.

  • 25. KarlS  |  February 13, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Of course…he's a bottom.


  • 26. Christian  |  February 13, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    You did not just…

  • 27. KarlS  |  February 13, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    I couldn't help mah-self. 🙂

  • 28. Mike in Baltimore  |  February 13, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    And the case is in Federal court, so he won't have any input in the decision since he is in the state court system.

    Poor Roy Moore!

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  • 30. Mackenzie  |  February 14, 2014 at 6:47 am

    So, question… many states are there left now that either do not recognize same-sex mariage, or do not have a court proceeding challenging their laws?

  • 31. sfbob  |  February 14, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I believe the number is nine. All other states either have marriage equality or have pending court cases. A few even have both (I think Jackson vs Abercrombie has not yet been dismissed).

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  • 33. Equality On TrialMarried &hellip  |  August 7, 2014 at 12:34 am

    […] state also faces a federal lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC is representing Paul Hard, whose husband died, […]

  • 34. Equality On TrialMother o&hellip  |  August 7, 2014 at 12:41 am

    […] proceeds from the wrongful death suit. Represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Hard is suing in federal court to force Alabama to recognize his marriage for purposes of distributing the […]

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