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Religious Tolerance logo

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

Part 37: Alabama: 2015-JUN-01:
Current status of SSM. SSM polls in Alabama.
Bills introduced in the Alabama Legislature,
to eliminate marriage licenses, fail.

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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.
PC(USA) refers to the Presbyterian Church (USA).

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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marriage symbol 2015-JUN-01: Current status of marriage by same-sex couples in Alabama and the rest of the United States:

Currently, same-sex couples are routinely married in parts of Missouri and in throughout 36 states and the District of Columbia. About 72% of the population of the U.S. live in areas where same-sex couples can marry, subject to the same age and consanguinity restrictions as opposite-sex couples must meet.

The Obergefell v. Hodges case before the U.S. Supreme Court involves the appeals of 4 same-sex marriage cases -- one each from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. In each state, same-sex couples are not allowed to marry. Any marriages that that they have had legally solemnized out-of-state are not recognized where they live. A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- alone among the Circuit Courts -- issued a ruling in 2014 that supported the SSM bans.

The High Court accepted appeals of the four states' cases in 2015-JAN, held hearings in late 2015-APR, and is expected to issue its ruling duping late 2015-June or early July. Most media commentators believe that the court will declare unconstitutional same-sex marriage bans in these four states and across the remaining nine states and five U.S. territories.

Alabama is one of the 13 states that still ban marriages by same-sex couples. Here, the courts are deadlocked:

  • The U.S. District Court has made marriage available to same-sex couples within the state and requires the state to recognize legal marriages by such couples that have been solemnized out-of-state.

  • The Alabama Supreme Court has issued a 148-page ruling stating that Probate Judges can ignore a federal District Court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

  • The state government refuses to recognize marriages by same-sex couples solemnized out-of-state. 1

Ironically, this is happening in the year that includes the 50th anniversary of the March for Civil and Voting Rights from Selma to Montgomery. AL., and of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 2 Marriage equality is generally recognized as the main, current, battle for equal civil rights in the United States.

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2004 to 2015: Polling results showing support for, and opposition to, marriage equality in Alabama:

  • 2004: A poll indicated that only 16% of Alabamians supported marriage equality. 3

  • 2006: By an overwhelming 81% to 19% vote, Alabamians passed the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Act to ban marriages by same-sex couples in the state. 2

  • 2012: SSM support in the state doubled during the previous eight years to 32%. Alabama had the third lowest level of support for marriage equality among all 50 states. Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia were all within one percentage point of Alabama. 4

  • 2014: A Public Religion Research Institute poll showed that support for same-sex marriage had stabilized at 32%. 21% of Alabama seniors, 21% of white evangelical Protestants, 22% of Republicans, 29% of black Protestants, and 48% of those under the age of 35 supported marriage equality. 5

  • During 2015-FEB, David Leonhardt, writing for the New York Times, said:

    "The continued, overwhelming opposition of evangelical Christians is the main explanation. A Pew Research survey in 2014 found that just 21 percent of white evangelical Christians supported same-sex marriage. That’s up from 14 percent in 2004, but it means that states with a large number of evangelical Christians — like Alabama — will probably continue to oppose same-sex marriage for a long time. If the Supreme Court rules this year that same-sex marriage bans are constitutional, such bans could endure in the South for years or even decades." 6

  • During 2015-MAY, Steve Flowers, writing for the Alabama Political Reporter, said:

    "Five years ago, who would have thought that same sex marriage would be sanctified in Alabama?  It would have been laughed at 50 years ago. However, integration of schools by race in Alabama would have been thought to be ludicrous in 1915.  Folks, things are a changing.  In fact, public opinion in the United States favors same sex marriage by a 60% to 40% margin. There has even been an incremental change in Alabamians’ opinions. Today, polling reveals 40% of Alabamians would permit same sex marriage, while 60% oppose it. 2

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2015-JUN-01: Bills proposed to modify the marriage procedures in Alabama:

  • HB56: Earlier, State Representative Jim Hill (R) had sponsored this bill. It would have allowed Probate Judges to discriminate freely against same-sex couples by refusing to marry any couple if it would violate the Judge's deeply held religious beliefs.

    If, as expected, the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriages across the country during mid-2015, this bill would have essentially said that it would not matter to the state if Probate Judges violated their oath of office in which they committed themselves to obeying the U.S. Constitution. It would also indicate that the state does not care if Probate Judges violate the Golden Rule which most religions require their followers to obey. This rule expects believers to treat other people as they would wish to be treated themselves.

    This bill was passed by the House Judiciary Committee. However, it was stalled in the Senate and did not proceed.

    Even if became law, it would not have been particularly effective. Among the majority of Alabamians who are strongly opposed to marriage equality, one marriage by a same-sex couple would be one too many. In order to eliminate all same-sex marriages in the state, every Probate Judge in each of the state's 67 counties would have to be willing to discriminate against all same-sex couples. If even one Judge did not go cooperate, same-sex marriages could proceed in the state, although with some travel inconvenience to the engaged couples and a massive workload by one or more Probate Judge who obeyed her or his oath of office and their faith group's "ethic of reciprocity."

    Also, qualified same-sex couples who were refused marriage could sue any probate judge who refused to marry them. That would quickly impoverish judges.

  • SB377: Senator Greg Albritton (R) sponsored a different bill. It would end marriage licensing in Alabama. He said:
  • "This bill does not denigrate marriage.  This bill does not de-sanctify marriage.  This bill does not change the definition of marriage.  All my bill does is to change the procedure for individuals to obtain a marriage."

Currently, couples who wish to be married go to the local courthouse, and apply for a marriage license. Some are married by the Probate Judge; others are married later by another marriage officiant -- typically a pastor, minister, imam, priest or priestess.

If bill SB377 were passed by the Legislature and signed into law, then a couple would fill out a form at the local courthouse, and sign it. In doing so, they would be certifying that they have a legal right to marry. The officiant and two witnesses would also sign after the wedding. A clerk would finally approve the form and the marriage would be registered. No actual marriage license would be involved -- only a type of legal contract.

The bill was approved by the state Senate, but rejected by the House Judiciary Committee with a vote of 3 to 8. 7 Because of time constraints, It cannot be passed in the current legislative session.

Rep. Merika Coleman-Evans (D) said that the bill was "Irresponsible," might cause "unintended consequences" and might embarrass Alabama nationally.

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    This topic continues in the next essay with events that follow the
    decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Obergefell v. Hodges
    case to legalize gay marriage across the entire country.

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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. Patrik Jonsson, "Alabama gay marriage ruling: legal, but not yet," Christian Science Monitor, 2015-MAY-22, at: http://www.csmonitor.com/
  2. Steve Flowers, "Prediction: Same sex marriage will be the law of the land," Alabama Political Reporter, 2015-JUN-04, at: http://www.alreporter.com/
  3. "Polling tracks growing and increasingly diverse support for the freedom to marry," Freedom to Marry, 2015-JUN-04, at: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/
  4. Andrew R. Flores & Scott Barclay, "Public Support for Marriage for Same-sex Couples by State," The Williams Institute, 2013-APT, at: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/
  5. Fobert Jones, "Support for Same-sex Marriage in Alabama Lowest in Nation," Public Religion Research Institute, 2015-FEB-10, at: http://publicreligion.org/
  6. David Leonhardt, "Alabama, Where Same-Sex Marriage Remains Deeply Unpopular," The New York Times, 2015-FEB-09, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  7. David Kumbroch, "Bill scrapping marriage licenses hits Alabama House after passing Senate," WHNT-19. 2015-JUN-01, at: http://whnt.com/

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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-JUN-04
Latest update: 2015-JUN-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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