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Gay Alabama widower: State saw relationship as ‘nothing’

Paul Hard’s husband died in 2011 car accident

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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)

Charles David Fancher proposed to Paul Hard three months after the Montgomery, Ala., men’s first date on July 4, 2004.

Hard, 55, accepted Fancher’s proposal six years later – and they exchanged vows on a Massachusetts beach on May 20, 2011. Fancher, 53, died less than three months later when his car crashed into a UPS truck that had overturned on an Alabama interstate.

Hard filed a wrongful death lawsuit, but he would not be able to receive the majority of any settlement money because the state does not recognize him as a surviving spouse.

“At every turn and every juncture, particularly following his death, I was treated as though this relationship was nothing,” Hard told the Washington Blade on Thursday after the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit challenging Alabama’s gay nuptials ban that prohibits the state from recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

Alabama voters in 2006 by an 81-19 vote margin approved a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Out state Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), who married her long-time partner in Massachusetts in 2013, last November introduced a bill that sought to repeal the state’s gay nuptials ban.

Hard said hospital personnel initially refused to allow him to see his husband, even though he had he brought the couple’s marriage license and other legal documents with him. An attendant roughly half an hour later told Hard that Fancher had died.

The director of the funeral home that buried Fancher said on his death certificate that he was “never married” and did not have a surviving spouse. Hard said the funeral home director refused to change the information on the document.

“I was seen to have been fully enough his husband to pay the bills and wrap-up his estate, but the state of Alabama refuses to acknowledges his relationship,” Hard told the Blade.

He added “no one deserves to through what I had to go through” after Fancher’s death.

“No one should have to suffer indignity at the hands of the state at the worst extremity of human existence when you lose someone,” said Hard. “No one would ever suggest to a widow and their church or their community organization that they should not pursue their rights as a widow. And I’m no different than anybody like that.”

Hard, who grew up as a Southern Baptist as his late husband did, told the Blade his family is overall supportive of his decision to seek recognition of his marriage in Alabama.

“Some of them don’t support gay marriage, but they have looked at me and simply said David has the right to leave to whomever he chose his estate,” he said.

Sam Wolfe, senior staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said as he and Hard spoke to the Blade it was time to file the lawsuit in the wake of last June’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and other recent rulings.

“Alabamians can’t wait forever and there is a bit of a wave going on in the country both on the topic of marriage and other issues relating to equality and basic dignity for LGBT people,” said Wolfe. “There are real families here like Paul and his family that are affected negatively, that are harmed by this law. We have the legal arguments at our disposal and we’re taking it to federal court to knock down this law.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed its lawsuit one day after a federal judge ruled Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.

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 out-of-state marriages. The Forum for Equality Louisiana on the same day filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four gay and lesbian couples who legally exchanged vows outside the Pelican State.

A judge last month ruled Oklahoma’s gay marriage ban is 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 ruling late last year that struck down the state’s gay nuptials ban.

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

Same-sex couples in Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and other states have filed marriage lawsuits since the U.S. Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling. A measure that would ban same-sex marriage in the Hoosier State will not go before voters this year after the Indiana Senate adjourned on Thursday without considering any amendments on the proposal.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s Feb. 10 announcement that 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 applies to Alabama and the 31 other states that have yet to extend marriage rights to gays and lesbians. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Thursday introduced a bill that would ban the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in states that ban gay nuptials.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Attorney General Luther Strange are among those named as defendants in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s lawsuit.

Bentley’s spokesperson, Jennifer Ardis, told the Associated Press on Thursday the governor believes in the “traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.” Ardis said Bentley would defend the state’s gay nuptials ban in court.

Wolfe told the Blade there have been “a lot” of positive reactions to the lawsuit. He said local officials have also said they plan to fight it “to the bitter end.”

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National

WATCH: Washington Post grills transphobic Libs of TikTok creator

Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik said she doesn’t believe in gender-affirming care & espouses other anti-LGBTQ+ viewpoints

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Chaya Raichik, founder of Libs of TikTok is interviewed by Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz.in California. (Screenshot/YouTube The Washington Post)

Grilled on a range of topics during an interview with Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz, Chaya Raichik, spoke about the great replacement theory, the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary in high school student in Oklahoma, why she won’t delete her false accusations about the Uvalde shooter and other mass-shooters, her views on gender, feminism and more.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Guilty verdict in first federal murder trial based on gender identity

Dime Doe killed in S.C. in 2019

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Dime Doe (Family photo)

A federal jury on Friday handed down a guilty verdict of a man accused of murdering a Black transgender woman in what is classified as the first in the nation federal trial over a hate crime based on gender identity.

After a 4-day trial in a federal hate crime case, a jury found a South Carolina man, Daqua Lameek Ritter, guilty of all charges in the indictment, which included one hate crime count, one federal firearms count and one obstruction count, all arising out of the murder of Dime Doe.

“Acts of violence against LGBTQI+ people, including transgender women of color like Dime Doe, are on the rise and have no place in our society,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer. “The Justice Department takes seriously all bias-motivated acts of violence and will not hesitate to hold accountable those who commit them. No one should have to live in fear of deadly violence because of who they are.”

According to court documents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, evidence presented at trial showed that Ritter was upset that rumors about his sexual relationship with Dime Doe were out in the community. On Aug. 4, 2019, the defendant lured Doe to a remote area in Allendale, S.C., and shot her three times in the head. At trial, the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Ritter murdered Doe because of her gender identity. Ritter then burned the clothes he was wearing during the crime, disposed of the murder weapon and repeatedly lied to law enforcement. 

This was the first trial under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for violence against a trans person. The Shepard-Byrd Act is a landmark federal statute passed in 2009 which allows federal criminal prosecution of hate crimes motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“A unanimous jury has found the defendant guilty for the heinous and tragic murder of Dime Doe, a Black transgender woman,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The jury’s verdict sends a clear message: Black trans lives matter, bias-motivated violence will not be tolerated and perpetrators of hate crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This case is historic; this defendant is the first to be found guilty by trial verdict for a hate crime motivated by gender identify under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. We want the Black trans community to know that you are seen and heard, that we stand with the LGBTQI+ community and that we will use every tool available to seek justice for victims and their families.”

Ritter faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering federal sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

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Oklahoma

Okla. lawmaker describes LGBTQ people as ‘filth’

State Sen. Tom Woods made comment on Friday

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Oklahoma state Sen. Tom Woods (Photo courtesy of Woods' state Senate website)

Republican Oklahoma state Sen. Tom Woods took part in a public legislative panel forum on Friday, during which the panel was asked by a constituent about the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary Owasso High School student who had been attacked and beaten in a school bathroom. 

The Oklahoma Voice reported that Cathy Cott, a 64-year-old semi-retired resident, asked the lawmakers why the Legislature had such an obsession with the LGBTQ citizens of the state, what people do in their personal lives and how they raise their children, according to the Tahlequah Daily Press, which first reported the remarks.

When she got no answer, she asked about the bills targeting the LGBTQ community.

“Why does the Legislature have such an obsession with the LGBTQ citizens of Oklahoma and what people do in their personal lives and how they raise their children?” Cott asked.

Woods replied, “We are a Republican state — supermajority — in the House and Senate. I represent a constituency that doesn’t want that filth in Oklahoma. You know we are a religious state. We are going to fight and keep that filth out of the state of Oklahoma because we’re a Christian state” 

The Tahlequah Daily Press also reported several audience members clapped, while others appeared shocked.

Cott said in an interview with Oklahoma Voice that she was not surprised by Woods’ answer.

Cott said she has many family and friends who are LGBTQ.

“I have dealt with other state representatives and senators and been to lobby day and tried to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community when I can so I am used to it,” she said. “They haven’t said anything like this to me before where they describe citizens of the state as filth, but they let me know they just don’t care.”

She said Woods’ remarks absolutely contribute to the hostile climate in the state for the LGBTQ community.

Prior to his election to his seat to represent Oklahoma’s Senate District 4 in 2022, Woods was a farmer and business owner. He ran a dairy farm, feed store and trucking company. His district runs along the eastern border of Oklahoma from West Fort Smith to Grove, and runs into Tahlequah.

Another Republican, state Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, a former teacher, told the audience he’s always seen educators’ jobs as “to educate students, not indoctrinate students.”

In a statement to the Washington Blade, Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf said:

“The only ‘filth’ here is this vile statement from a sitting state senator. This is the kind of hate speech that incites deadly violence against our communities. This is what we mean when we say that the flames of dehumanization and hate have been fanned in Oklahoma. Enough is enough. There needs to be accountability for this climate of hate — and the damage being done.”

GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis told the Blade:

“Enough is enough. Oklahoma’s Republican leaders are continuing to nurture a climate of anti-LGBTQ animus, modeling disgusting anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, questioning our very humanity, attacking marginalized youth and educators who support them and improperly handling bullying and assaults at school. Leaders with a bully pulpit have the power to inspire empathy and understanding, but they also have the power to inspire hate, bullying and physical attacks. These so-called leaders fomenting hate, Sen. Tom Woods, Supt. Ryan Walters, Gov. Kevin Stitt are failing Oklahoma’s youth in dangerous and myriad ways.”

There has been national outage in reaction to the death of Benedict. Vice President Kamala Harris, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) are among those in leadership decrying the death and the political climate that LGBTQ advocacy groups say have been contributing factors.

HRC President Kelley Robinson has called for federal investigations by the U.S. Justice and Education Departments.

In her social media post, the vice president said: “My heart goes out to Nex Benedict’s family, friends, and their entire community. To the LGBTQI+ youth who are hurting and are afraid right now: President Joe Biden and I see you, we stand with you and you are not alone.”

Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who in 2022 signed an anti-trans bill prohibiting students from using public school restrooms that do not match the sex listed on their birth certificates, wrote in his statement that “our hearts go out to Nex’s family, classmates and the Owasso community. The death of any child in an Oklahoma school is a tragedy — and bullies must be held accountable.”

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