Urge your Senator to Vote Against AL HB56
Last week the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to Alabama House Bill 56, the Freedom of Religion in Marriage Protection Act. Sponsored by Rep. Jim Hill (R-Moody), the legislation allows probate judges to refuse to solemnize same-sex marriages or issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on personal religious objections. It also allows some religiously-affiliated institutions to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages.
The next step is for the Chairman of the Senate Committee Judiciary, Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), to refer the bill to the Senate Rules Committee. If the bill is approved, it will be sent to the Senate floor for a vote. At this critical phase, Alabama residents should contact the Senator representing their district to urge them to vote NO. You can find your Alabama senator by searching by district or ZIP code.
- The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment already protects the right of clergy members to refuse to solemnize marriages. What this bill does is create a new right for Alabama judges to refuse to solemnize marriages based on their personal religious objections. It would not be limited to same-sex marriages, but would extend to interracial, interfaith, and other marriages that could be considered objectionable.
- Alabama judges take an oath to fulfill their duties proscribed by the Alabama State Constitution and Alabama State Code. Among those duties is to solemnize marriages. If they are unable to fulfill their official duties due to a conflict with their personal religious objections, then they should reconsider their position as a judge.
- If passed, this bill could negatively impact an increasing amount of Alabamaians who do not have a religious affiliation. Alabama law only authorizes clergy members and judges to solemnize marriages. It does not recognize secular celebrants. If a judge refuses to solemnize the marriage of a non-religious couple, then they have no other valid options to marry in Alabama.
- If this bill becomes law, the State of Alabama will be exposing itself to costly litigation. Couples could pursue legal action against the State alleging a deprivation of their constitutional right to marry. At a time when Alabama is facing a budget crisis, the State should not be using its limited resources defending these lawsuits.
- This bill has broader reaching implications than allowing Alabama judges to refuse to solemnize marriages. It would allow religiously-affiliated institutions, such as hospitals, to refuse to recognize some marriages. This could mean that a hospital could refuse to allow a patient to exercise their right to make medical decisions for their spouse, or access their spouse’s records.