University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Hard v. Bentley PB-AL-0004
Docket / Court 2:13-CV-00922 ( M.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Same-Sex Marriage
Attorney Organization Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
On December 16, 2013, a man whose same-sex spouse (married in the state of Massachusetts) died in an automobile accident in 2011 and who wished to be recognized as the surviving spouse, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama under 28 U.S.C. § 2201-2202 ... read more >
On December 16, 2013, a man whose same-sex spouse (married in the state of Massachusetts) died in an automobile accident in 2011 and who wished to be recognized as the surviving spouse, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama under 28 U.S.C. § 2201-2202 against the state of Alabama. The plaintiff, represented by attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center, asked the court to declare that Alabama's laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional and allow the plaintiff to be recognized as the surviving spouse in any lawsuits surrounding the death of his husband. The plaintiff also requested that the court issue an injunction stating that Alabama must recognize same-sex marriages formalized in other jurisdictions and issue an injunction that requires the plaintiff's husband's death certificate be changed to indicate that he was married at the time of death.

The Alabama Marriage Protection Act states that it will not recognize "any marriage of parties of the same sex that occurred or was alleged to have occurred as a result of the law of any jurisdiction." Similar language also later became part of the state's constitution when Alabama voters passed the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment. The plaintiff claimed that Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage discriminated against same-sex couples for no rational reason and violated the plaintiff's rights under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution.

On January 23, 2015, in Searcy v. Bentley (PB-AL-0005 in this Clearinghouse), the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama (Judge Callie V. S. Granade) ruled that Alabama's same sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. In accordance with the ruling, the Alabama Center for Health Statistics issued the plaintiff an amended death certificate recognizing him as a surviving spouse. The decedent's mother filed a motion to intervene seeking to block distribution of settlement funds from a wrongful death lawsuit. On February 24, 2015, the District Court (Judge William Keith Watkins) granted the motion to intervene.

On March 10, 2015, the District Court (Judge Watkins) granted the governor's motion to dismiss only the count against him for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and also stayed further proceedings pending the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (PB-OH-0003 in this Clearinghouse).

Megan Dolan - 07/15/2014
Thomas Topping - 03/22/2015


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Sex discrimination
Sexual orientatation
General
Gay/lesbian/transgender
Marriage
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) State of Alabama
Plaintiff Description The plaintiff was a citizen of Alabama whose husband was killed in an automobile accident and who wished to be recognized as the surviving spouse.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Southern Poverty Law Center
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Limited Partnership
http://www.limitedpartnershipmovie.com/
By: Thomas G. Miller
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  United States Government says L.A. Gay Couple’s 1975 Marriage is Valid
The Pride L.A.
Written: Jun. 07, 2016
By: Troy Masters
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:13-cv-922 (M.D. Ala.) 03/10/2015
PB-AL-0004-9001.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief 12/16/2013
PB-AL-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting motion to intervene] 02/24/2015 (M.D. Ala.)
PB-AL-0004-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [Granting Governor Bentley's motion to dismiss] 03/10/2015 (2015 WL 1043159) (M.D. Ala.)
PB-AL-0004-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Walker, Susan Russ (M.D. Ala.) [Magistrate]
PB-AL-0004-9001
Watkins, William Keith (M.D. Ala.)
PB-AL-0004-0002 | PB-AL-0004-0003 | PB-AL-0004-9001
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Dinielli, David Carter (Alabama)
PB-AL-0004-0001 | PB-AL-0004-9001
Wolfe, Samuel (Alabama)
PB-AL-0004-0001 | PB-AL-0004-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Byrne, David Bryson Jr. (Alabama)
PB-AL-0004-9001
Davis, James William (Alabama)
PB-AL-0004-9001
Howell, Laura Elizabeth (Alabama)
PB-AL-0004-9001
Means, Tyrone Carlton (Alabama)
PB-AL-0004-9001
Morrison, Duane Richard (Alabama)
PB-AL-0004-9001
Smith, Gabriel Joseph (Alabama)
PB-AL-0004-9001
Other Lawyers None on record

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