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Recognition of same-sex marriage (SSM) & LGBT equality

Part 30:
Alabama: 2015-MAR: "Freedom to Discriminate"
bill introduced to Alabama Legislature. Reactions.

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In this web site, the acronym "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage. Also, "LGBT"
refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender/Transsexual community.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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LGBT symbol 2015-MAR-03: "Freedom to discriminate" bill introduced at the Alabama legislature:

Background: During mid-2015-JAN, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted for review four same-sex marriage cases, one each from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Hearings are scheduled for APR-28. Expectations are rising that when the high Court issues its ruling in late June or early July, it will either:

  • Require all states to make marriage available to qualified same-sex couples across the entire country, or

  • Allow states to prohibit marriage by same-sex couples, but require all states to recognize same-sex marriages legally solemnized out-of-state. Such a ruling would be based on Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. This is the "full faith and credit" clause. It requires each state to recognize the "public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state." Such a ruling by the high court would convert every same-sex marriage by residents of a state that bans their marriage into an out-of-state "destination wedding." It would reinforce the animus and hatred that members of the LGBT community feel from others in the state. However, it would not otherwise impact the couples significantly. It would also give a nice economic boost to the state's tourism and sales taxes where the marriages can be solemnized.

Because of this expected ruling by the high court, many groups opposed to marriage equality have recently been switching their attention, efforts, and finances away from opposing same-sex marriage. They are now concentrating more on changing legislation to allow individuals and companies to have the religious freedom to discriminate against members of the LGBT community. In recent years, about a dozen retail outlets scattered throughout the U.S. have run afoul of their state or city human rights laws or ordinances. This happens in those states whose human rights regulations require "public accommodations" to not discriminate in the provision of goods and services on the basis of a potential customer's sexual orientation. "Public accommodations" are typically retail outlets that serve the general public.

One example of this trend away from preventing marriage equality and towards legalizing discrimination is seen in Representative Jim Hill's (R) introduction of a bill, H.B. 56 to the Alabama Legislature. If passed, it would grant certain individuals and groups the freedom to discriminate against same-sex couples. His bill would extend this freedom to:

  • Probate judges, other public officials, and clergy would be free to refuse to solemnize marriages for couples on any grounds that they feel is personally religiously objectionable. This might include couples who are not of the judge's faith, interfaith couples, same-sex couples, interracial couples, couples where one partner has been divorced, etc.

  • Religiously-based hospitals and other institutions would be free to refuse to recognize any marriages with which it disagrees. So, for example, a hospital could refuse the to acknowledge the medical decisions by a person in a same-sex marriage relating to their child or incapacitated spouse. That could create a life-threatening crisis in some cases.

The proposed bill is called "The Freedom of Religion in Marriage Protection Act." It amends the existing marriage act, and states in part:

"No one authorized or permitted to solemnize marriages pursuant to this section or any other provision of Alabama law is required to solemnize a marriage for any person or persons. ..."

"No licensed or ordained minister or any priest, rabbi, or similar official of any church, synagogue, society, or religious organization is required to solemnize or recognize any marriage.

A licensed or ordained minister or any priest, rabbi, or similar official of any church, synagogue, society, or religious organization shall be immune from any civil claim or cause of action, or any criminal prosecution, based on a refusal to solemnize or recognize any marriage under this section or any other provision of Alabama law.

No state agency or local government may base a decision to penalize, withhold benefits from, or refuse to contract with any church, synagogue, society, or religious organization on the refusal of a person associated with such church, synagogue, society, or religious organization to solemnize or recognize a marriage under this section or any other provision of Alabama law.

No church, synagogue, society, or religious organization is required to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, services, or goods related to the recognition, solemnization, or celebration of a marriage.

A church, synagogue, society, or religious organization shall be immune from any civil claim or cause of action, or any criminal prosecution, based on its refusal to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, services, or goods related to the recognition, solemnization, or celebration of a marriage. ..."

For purposes of this subsection, the recognition, solemnization, or celebration of a marriage includes services or provisions that are related to or designed to relate to solemnizing, recognizing, celebrating, strengthening, or promoting marriage, such as religious counseling programs, courses, retreats, and workshops.

Nothing in this section shall be construed to eliminate, reduce, alter, or otherwise modify any additional, broader, or other constitutional freedoms and protections of religion or religious liberties for any person or church, synagogue, society, or religious organization as established under the United States Constitution or the constitution of this state." 1

R. Ashley Jackson, the Alabama Director of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) -- a pro-equality group -- said:

"This legislation has nothing to do with Alabama values and everything to do with allowing one group of Alabamians to ignore the law in order to harm another group. If passed, this bill would allow a county’s only probate judge to refuse to issue a marriage license to an interfaith, interracial or same-sex couple, and it would deny a legally-married spouse the right to make medical decisions for their partner if an emergency brings that couple to a religiously-affiliated hospital. 2

State Representative Patricia Todd (D) said:

"In all my years serving the people of this state, I have never seen a piece of legislation more explicitly rooted in a motivation to discriminate. I’ll do my best to stop this bill. I’ll filibuster if I have to. But we need fair minded people across this state to speak up and join us if we’re going to stop it." 2

There are dozens of comments posted to the HRC article. If you have a strong stomach, they are well worth reading. They clearly demonstrate the depths of hatred towards the LGBT community. However, the remarks are only posted by people motivated to do so. A person anywhere in the world can post a comment. So, they may not be representative of the people of Alabama.

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2015-MAR-03: Webmaster's note: (Bias alert):

Much of Bill H.B. 56 is redundant, because it mostly lists privileges that are already guaranteed to clergy and religious groups by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That amendment creates a "wall of separation" between church and state. However, many conservative faith groups have raised alarms that if churches refuse to marry same-sex couples, they may be charged and their clergy may be arrested. So, this bill may be a comfort to some believers who are unaware of the guarantees of the First Amendment.

I posted a comment to the HRC article, stating:

"I have never been able to understand why those motivated to discriminate against the LGBT community link it to the destruction of Sodom in Genesis 19. The passage clearly discusses attempted anal rape of two angels by men from Sodom as a method of humiliating and punishing the angels who were visitors to Sodom. This clearly is completely unrelated to any same-gender sexual behavior by consenting adults that I have heard of." 2

I find it surprising that both the pro and anti-marriage equality groups seem to be unable to "connect the dots" between marriage equality and religion. They appear to be failing to see the conflict between the desire to discriminate against the LGBT community and the Golden Rule. The Bible records that Jesus commanded his followers to do onto others as they would wish others to do onto them. Two biblical passages promoting the Golden Rule in the King James Version are:

  • Matthew 7:12 "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."

  • Luke 6:31: "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise."

Differently worded expressions of the Golden Rule can be found in many other religions and ethical systems.

I feel certain that no person in Alabama who applies for a marriage licence would want to experience the humiliation and rejection of being refused. No matter what a person's religion is -- or lack of religion -- The Golden Rule would seem to require them to at least act favorably towards marriage equality for all, even if they have personal reservations about same-sex couples and their marriages.

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Jim Hill, "H.B. 56," Alabama Legislature, at: http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/
  2. Hubert Tate, "Activists Fast-Tracking Anti-LGBT Bill in Alabama," Human Rights Campaign, 2015-MAR-03, at: http://www.hrc.org/

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    Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Alabama > here

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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2015-MAR-05
Latest update: 2015-MAR-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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