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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 13 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 24
ACLU sues for marriage rights in Alabama
Section One
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ACLU sues for marriage rights in Alabama

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The ACLU filed suit June 10 in Federal District Court seeking to overturn Alabama's ban on same-sex marriages. The organization said in a statement that the suit is the latest action in their 'Out for Freedom' campaign, to win the freedom to marry in every state.

Alabama is now the thirteenth state in which ACLU is suing for marriage.

Plaintiffs in the suit are April and Ginger Aaron-Brush, who legally married in Massachusetts, but reside in Alabama and want the state to recognize their marriage.

'The word marriage, in itself, brings validity and respect to any committed relationship,' April Aaron-Brush said in a statement.

'One's marriage status shouldn't change simply by crossing state lines. Gay couples seek to be married for the very same reasons that opposite-sex couples choose to be married-- love, honor and commitment.'

April, an employee with the Social Security Administration, and Ginger, a tenured and decorated teacher, met at college in the spring of 1997 through a mutual friend. They adopted a child in 2007, and were married in 2012 on their fifteenth anniversary as a couple.

'All loving and committed couples deserve the dignity and protections that come with marriage, no matter where they live,' ACLU of Alabama Executive Director Susan Watson said. 'It's time for marriage equality to come to Alabama.'

Two other pending suits also challenge Alabama's marriage laws.

Hard v. Bentley was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in February. The plaintiff in the case, Paul Hard, married Charles David Fancher in Massachusetts. Fancher was killed in a 2011 car accident just north of Montgomery, Alabama, which resulted in a wrongful death lawsuit. Because of Alabama's marriage laws, Hard is not recognized as the surviving spouse, and therefore not entitled to a share of the proceeds in the suit.

'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,' said David C. Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director. 'This is unconstitutional.

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

In Searcy v. Bentley, a Lesbian couple is suing for recognition of their marriage and therefore the right of the non-biological mother to adopt the child they are rasing jointly.

Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand have been together for more than 14 years, and were married in California in 2008.

Together, they are raising a young son, Khaya, who was born in 2005. Since Alabama law does recognize the couple's marriage, Searcy, the non-biological mother, is not allowed to adopt her own son.

'I am a parent in every way to our son, but legally I am still considered a stranger,' she said in a statement. 'We just want our son to have the same protections and securities as other Alabama families.'

A divorce case is also challenging Alabama's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages. In Richmond and Richmond v. Madison County Clerk, a couple is asking the state to approve their uncontested divorce petition.

Sherie Michelle Richmond and Kirsten Allysse Richmond married in Iowa in 2012, and filed for divorce in Alabama in March of this year. The case was dismissed because the state does not consider them married in the first place.

Their appeal requests recognition of their out-of-state marriage for the purpose of filing the divorce and, in effect, challenges the constitutionality of Alabama's denial of recognition for legal marriages.

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