So. Baptist Seminary Grad Sues to Overturn Alabama's Ban on Recognizing Gay Marriages From Other States

A graduate of a Southern Baptist seminary and former campus Baptist minister is suing to overturn an Alabama law that does not recognize gay marriages performed outside of the state.

Paul Hard, 55, an alumnus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, filed his lawsuit after his husband, David Fancher, died in a car accident in 2011, less than two months after they had married in Massachusetts.

(Photo: Screenshot/AL.COM)Paul Hard, a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaks about his lawsuit to overturn an Alabama law that does not recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the state, Feb. 13, 2014.

Hard was named as his spouse's sole beneficiary, but current Alabama law forbids him from receiving benefits from a wrongful-death lawsuit that has been filed by his estate against the trucking company where Fancher worked.

In the immediate aftermath of the accident, hospital staff did not recognize Hard as Fancher's next of kin, despite him bringing Fancher's power of attorney, living will and their marriage certificate." Hard said the hospital staff's insistence that they would only speak with a family member made him "angry" and then "frantic."

"After what seemed to be about 30 minutes, finally the hospital administration called the desk and said, 'You can take him on back.' At that point, I assumed that David was simply badly injured and asked the orderly who was escorting me back, 'Is he badly hurt?' The orderly simply said, 'He's dead,'" Hard said, as reported to AL.COM.

Hard, an Auburn University Montgomery professor who is now Episcopalian, said that he is filing the lawsuit to keep others from experiencing a situation similar to the one he suffered while at the hospital in the aftermath of Fancher's injuries.

"It's important, because nobody should ever have to go through this at the worst extreme of our lives; we should be able to expect the compassion and support of our fellow citizens," Hard said. "Southerners have tremendous heart. They are known for their kindness. They are known for their courtesy. They are known for their ethics. And they're known for their humanity. I don't believe that anybody that could witness what I went through could simply step back to a political or a legal position."

The prosecution will go after a 1998 state law, the Marriage Protection Act, and the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment. The latter piece of legislation was approved by more than 80 percent of voters statewide in 2006.

Hard will be represented by the Southern Poverty Law Institute, a left-of-center organization that has previously designated the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian advocacy organization, as a "hate group."