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 were unconstitutional and to 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 requiring 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 stated that the state would 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).

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court held the right to marry was fundamental, and it demeaned gay and lesbian couples to deprive them of access to marriage. The 14th Amendment therefore does not allow states to ban same-sex marriage. Justice Kennedy was joined without further writing by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor. Each of the four dissenters--Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito--wrote a separate dissent.

In light of this opinion, the defendants moved to dismiss the case on July 14, 2015, which the court granted the same day.

On July 29, the courte ordered that the plaintiff receive $552,956.69 in settlement funds.

The case is now closed.

Megan Dolan - 07/15/2014
Thomas Topping - 03/22/2015
Virginia Weeks - 02/11/2018

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Sex discrimination
Sexual orientatation
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
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
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Confession of Judgment
Filed 12/16/2013
Case Closing Year 2015
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
2:13-cv-922 (M.D. Ala.)
PB-AL-0004-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/29/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PB-AL-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/16/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting motion to intervene] [ECF# 75] (2015 WL 13650368) (M.D. Ala.)
PB-AL-0004-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/24/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [Granting Governor Bentley's motion to dismiss] [ECF# 76] (2015 WL 1043159) (M.D. Ala.)
PB-AL-0004-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/10/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Walker, Susan Russ (M.D. Ala.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
Watkins, William Keith (M.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
PB-AL-0004-0002 | PB-AL-0004-0003 | PB-AL-0004-9001
Plaintiff's Lawyers Dinielli, David Carter (Alabama) show/hide docs
PB-AL-0004-0001 | PB-AL-0004-9001
Wolfe, Samuel (Alabama) show/hide docs
PB-AL-0004-0001 | PB-AL-0004-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Byrne, David Bryson Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
Davis, James William (Alabama) show/hide docs
Howell, Laura Elizabeth (Alabama) show/hide docs
Kidd, Matthew (Alabama) show/hide docs
Means, Tyrone Carlton (Alabama) show/hide docs
Morrison, Duane Richard (Alabama) show/hide docs
Smith, Gabriel Joseph (Alabama) show/hide docs

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