When Dr. Paul Hard and his longtime partner David Fancher traveled to Massachusetts in May of 2011 to get married, they knew the union wouldn’t be recognized in their home state of Alabama. But tragedy struck three months later when Fancher was killed in a car accident, and Hard learned all too quickly what the state’s stance on same-sex marriages feels like in times of crisis and loss.
The first blow came at the hospital, when a frenzied Hard was essentially turned away by staff. A receptionist told him he “wasn’t family,” and he had to fight tooth and nail for over an hour to get information about his husband. An orderly finally told him Fancher had died, but it took a break of protocol for him to receive basic human kindness.
But that wasn’t the end of nightmare.
Next Hard heard from the funeral director, who informed him that David’s death certificate would have to say that he’d never been married, because according to Alabama law, he hadn’t.
The administrator of David’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit, but because his death certificate states he’s never been married, the suit fails to mention Paul’s loss. David’s mother would collect any awards granted.
Rather than accept the repeated messages from the Alabama legal system that his marriage to Fancher was illegitimate, Paul decided to sue the state.
“If I can spare one other person that kind of indignity and hurt, I would do it. If I can let people know how this law unjustly and cruelly affects people, I will do it. And ultimately I hope that these laws are overturned so that it now longer can give folks permission to treat Americans as second-class citizens.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center decided to take Paul’s case, and if they’re successful, Paul will be able to amend David’s death certificate and share in the proceeds of the wrongful death suit.
And though Paul is taking on some powerful opponents, he’s finding that David’s 75-year-old mother (right) is the one fighting against him the most.
Upon hearing about the lawsuit, she issued this statement:
“I am a devout Christian and I am deeply disturbed that the death of my son David is being used by Dr. Paul Hard to advance the cause of same-sex marriage. I did not agree with all of the decisions that my son made, but I loved him very much and we always had a good relationship. It is wrong for David’s death to be used in this manner.”
And sadly she didn’t stop there. She contacted a right-wing legal organization called The Foundation For Moral Law (gag), who released a statement of their own:
“We here at the Foundation agree with Ms. Fancher. Ms. Fancher and the majority of Alabamians, believe marriage is an institution established by God for the governance of the most basic unit of society, the family, and this institution is intended to be between one man and one woman. The Foundation will protect not only Ms. Fancher’s beliefs and interests, but also the right of Alabama citizens to preserve the traditional definition of marriage.”
The day we can look back and say The Foundation For “Moral Law” and people like them were on the wrong side of history can’t come soon enough.