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Lawsuit challenges Alabama same-sex marriage ban

Case brought on behalf of gay widower

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David Fancher, Paul Hard, SPLC, Southern Poverty Law Center, Alabama, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade
David Fancher, Paul Hard, SPLC, Southern Poverty Law Center, Alabama, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

David Fancher (on left) and Paul Hard at their wedding. (Photo courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center)

The Southern Poverty Law Center on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit that challenges Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban.

The organization, which is based in Montgomery, Ala., brought the case on behalf of Paul Hard, who married Charles David Fancher in Massachusetts in May 2011. Fancher died in a car accident less than three months later after he hit an overturned UPS truck on I-65 outside of Montgomery – a wrongful death lawsuit was later filed in his name.

Alabama law says a surviving spouse is entitled to receive the majority of any settlement money, but the state does not recognize Hard and Fancher’s wedding because voters in 2006 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

“They create two, unequal, classes of married couples living in the State of Alabama: those married couples who enjoy all the protections afforded to people who are married, including the right of a surviving spouse to recover proceeds in a wrongful death action, and those married couples, like Paul and David, who do not,” reads the lawsuit. “The obvious purpose of the Sanctity Laws is to punish and demean citizens who have entered one type of marriage, but not the other.

Alabama is among the 32 states that ban same-sex marriage.

Out state Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), who married her long-time partner in Massachusetts in 2013, last November introduced a bill that would have repealed Alabama’s gay nuptials ban.

Six gay and lesbian couples in neighboring Florida last month filed a lawsuit challenging their state’s same-sex marriage ban.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Missouri on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in state court on behalf of eight same-sex couples who are seeking recognition of their marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions. The Forum for Equality Louisiana on the same day filed an identical lawsuit in a federal court in New Orleans on behalf of four gay and lesbian couples who legally married outside the Pelican State.

A federal judge on Wednesday ruled Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

A judge last month found Oklahoma’s gay nuptials ban unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court less than two weeks earlier blocked any future same-sex marriages from taking place in Utah pending the outcome of an appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby’s December ruling that struck down the state’s gay nuptials ban.

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto on Feb. 10 announced she will no longer defend her state’s same-sex marriage ban in court.

A ruling in a federal lawsuit that challenges Virginia’s gay nuptials ban is expected in the coming days.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore last week urged all 50 state governors to allow their legislatures to call for a convention to ratify an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as “the union of one man and one woman.” Gov. Robert Bentley last September said he would not allow the Alabama National Guard to extend benefits to members’ same-sex partners in spite of a directive the Pentagon issued after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

“The moral foundation of our country is under attack,” Moore told the Associated Press.

Attorney General Eric Holder on Feb. 10 announced the Justice Department will now recognize same-sex marriages in civil and criminal cases and extend full benefits to gay spouses of police officers and other public safety personnel killed while on duty. This new policy applies to Alabama and the 31 other states that currently do not recognize same-sex marriage.

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More Americans personally know someone who’s transgender, non-binary: survey

42% know a trans person, 26% know someone using gender-neutral pronouns

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More Americans personally know a transgender person or someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, according to new data from the non-partisan Pew Research Center.

A survey found 42 percent of Americans know someone who’s transgender, who is up from 37 percent who said so in 2017. Although most Americans, 57 percent, still say they don’t know anyone who’s transgender, that’s down from 63 percent five years ago.

Similarly, 26 percent of Americans say they know someone who uses non-binary gender pronouns compared to the 18 percent in 2018 who said they knew someone uses pronouns such as “they” as opposed to “he” or “she.”

At the same time, comfort levels with using gender-neutral pronouns – as well as their opinions on whether someone’s gender can differ from the sex they were assigned at birth – has remained about the same. Half of Americans say they would be either very or somewhat comfortable using a gender-neutral pronoun to refer to someone if asked to do so, compared to 48 percent who say they would not be comfortable. The numbers, according to Pew Research, are basically unchanged since 2018.

The survey found profound differences by age, party, and education in knowing a transgender person or someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, although in both parties growing shares of Americans report knowing a person who’s transgender.

For Americans under age 30, some 53 percent say they know a transgender person, which is up from 44 percent in 2017. In the same age group, 46 percent of younger U.S. adults know someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, compared to 32 percent in 2018.

The Pew Research Center conducted the survey of 10,606 U.S. adults between June 14 and June 17. The survey is weighted to reflect the U.S. adult population in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education, and other categories, according to Pew Research.

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Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”

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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 

 

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Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

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Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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