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House Passes Freedom of Religion in Marriage Protection Act

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, March 12, the Alabama House of Representatives passed the “Freedom of Religion in Marriage Protection Act.” The Alabama House Republican Caucus said in a statement that the bill, H.B. 56, is designed to protect judges and ministers from being compelled to officiate marriage ceremonies that violate their religious beliefs. The Freedom of Religion in Marriage was sponsored by State Representative Jim Hill (R-Odenville).

Representative Hill said in a statement, “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.”

Rep. Hill is a retired St. Clair County Judge. Rep. Hill said. “As a former judge, I would not want to be forced into a situation that violates my fundamental religious and moral beliefs.”  State Rep. Hill represents House District 50. Jim Hill was elected to his first term with no opponent in either the primary or the general election. His predecessor, Rep. Jim McClendon, was elected to the State Senate.

For over 200 years of Alabama history, the only marriages that were recognized by State law were between one man and one woman. 81 percent of Alabama voters even voted to add that definition of marriage to the State constitution. All of that changed however in January, when Mobile Federal Judge Callie Granade ruled that the Alabama Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman violates the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment. While the Alabama Supreme Court has recently ordered Alabama’s probate judges not to issue the controversial marriage licenses, the issue is still in the federal court system.

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.

The bill is part of the House Republican Caucus’s “Alabama First” legislative agenda.”

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The Human Rights Group, HRC, condemned the bill’s passage.  They blamed Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) and accused the elected Chief Justice of using “legally dubious ways” to fight same-sex marriage and compared this to the violent suppression of Black people during the Jim Crowe era.

HRC Alabama State Director R. Ashley Jackson said in a statement, “Who’s in charge here? Is Governor Robert Bentley or Justice Moore running the state? Governor Bentley says that he wants to move the state forward, yet today Justice Moore and his allies in the state house took the state back decades.”  

Director Jackson wrote, “For today at least, it looks like Justice Moore is ruling the roost with his roughshod brand of discrimination.” 

Rep. Patricia Todd (D) said, “Alabama started this week celebrating an end to racial discrimination and ended the week voting for discrimination.”

Todd (the only openly gay legislator in Alabama history) attempted to filibuster the act with the help of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus.

The bill now goes to the State Senate.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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