Activists Fast-Tracking Anti-LGBT Bill in Alabama

by HRC Staff

HRC Alabama sounds the alarm on H.B. 56, which could trigger a wave of lawsuits and allow probate judges, hospitals to refuse to follow the law

MONTGOMERY—Today, HRC Alabama sounded the alarm on H.B. 56, a bill introduced by Representative Jim Hill today and referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where it could move as soon as tomorrow. The legislation tracks closely to a wave of anti-LGBT legislation emerging in more than a dozen states around the country.

As drafted, the bill would allow probate judges and public officials to refuse to solemnize marriages that they find religiously objectionable—empowering probate judges to turn away interfaith couples, interracial couples, same-sex couples and unions where one partner is a divorcee.

The bill would also allow a religiously-affiliated hospital or other institution to refuse to recognize marriages it disagrees with. This would empower a religious hospital to refuse to allow a legally-married spouse to make medical decisions for their incapacitated partner—or allow a religiously-affiliated university to refuse to provide appropriate tax documents to an employee who has divorced or remarried. 

“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,” said HRC Alabama Director R. Ashley Jackson. “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.”

“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,” said Representative Patricia Todd of Birmingham. “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.”

HRC Alabama will provide updates on the legislation as new details emerge. The organization is activating its members across Alabama to contact their elected officials in opposition to the bill.

Key Facts about H.B. 56:

  • Freedom of religion is important—that’s why it’s already protected by the First Amendment of our Constitution.
  • However, government officials should not be granted a special license to refuse services they were elected or hired to provide for all Alabamians.
  • No state in the country has ever passed a bill of this nature and scope, and, if passed, this bill would open up Alabama to costly litigation.
  • This bill would allow government officials to refuse to solemnize marriages between persons of different races, persons of different religions, divorcees, or persons of the same sex.
  • This bill would create a host of unintended consequences for all legally married couples:
    • It could allow religiously-affiliated hospitals to deny a legally-married couple the ability to make medical decisions for their spouse.
    • It could allow religiously-affiliated social service organizations that accept tax dollars—like homeless shelters or food pantries—to selectively ignore the martial status of some legally-married couples in the provision of services.
    • This bill could allow certain entities like religiously-affiliated universities and schools to refuse to file appropriate tax forms for an employee in a legally-recognized same-sex marriage.

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