AL House approves 'religious freedom' bill for marriage officials

AL House approves 'religious freedom' bill for marriage officials

MONTGOMERY, AL (WTVM) - The Alabama House of Representatives approved a bill on Tuesday, designed to protect judges and ministers from being compelled to officiate marriage ceremonies that violate the religious beliefs.

Proposed by State Rep. Jim Hill, R-Odenville, the Freedom of Religious in Marriage Protection Act was created to protect officials capable of marrying couples. The legislation is a part of the Alabama House Republican Caucus's "Alabama First" legislative agenda.

The legislation, filed as House Bill 56, now goes to the state Senate for consideration after passing by a vote of 69-25. The provisions of this law include:

Among the provisions in the legislation are:

  • The "Freedom of Religion in Marriage Protection Act" protects ministers and judges from being forced to officiate marriage ceremonies for any reason.
  • It further clarifies that ministers and religious organizations are not required to recognize, officiate, or support marriages that violate their religious beliefs.

"With the recent federal court ruling related to the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the confusion that resulted, the need to clarify the duties of probate judges and ministers became increasingly apparent," Hill said. "As a former judge, I would not want to be forced into a situation that violates my fundamental religious and moral beliefs."

Since the banning of same-sex marriages in Alabama was ruled unconstitutional on Jan. 23, the state has been in marred with lawsuits and orders from top officials making marriage for same-sex couples difficult.

On Jan. 25, Federal Judge Callie Grande made a 14-day stay on her own ruling that expired on Feb. 9 barring same-sex couples from getting married. On Feb. 9, the first day of the ruling, many counties allowed for same sex couples to get married, while other counties turned away all couples, or simply refused.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered all probate judges not to issue same-sex marriage licenses, and multiple lawsuits followed, but Alabama has gained some ground on their side.

Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages. The Supreme Court is set to determine whether gay couples have the constitutional right to get married, or if states can ban same-sex marriage later this year.

Several equality groups, like the Human Rights Campaign of Alabama and Equality Alabama, made pleas on the House floor against the legislation.

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