GBM Statement on House Bill 56 (2015)

GBM affirms the existing legal and moral rights of clergy and religious institutions to decline to perform any marriage based on personal and/or institutionally held beliefs, as well as the right of religious institutions to determine how their facilities are used. We find these rights enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, making House Bill 56 (2015) both unnecessary and a target for protracted litigation.

Additionally, we firmly hold that elected, appointed and other government officials should provide lawfully-affirmed, official services to all Alabamians, rather than allowing individual officials to choose to withhold specific services from certain individuals or couples based on the official’s personal beliefs.

HB 56 would result in countless unintended consequences and create significant opportunity for discrimination against the constitutionally guaranteed rights of couples across the state. Given Alabama’s history of discrimination – including being the last state to repeal laws banning interracial marriage in 2000 – we do not believe it prudent to regress these hard-fought liberties.

We find it deeply troubling that provisions within HB56 could be used by religious institutions, including “mission organizations, faith-based social agencies,” religiously-affiliated hospitals and universities and adoption agencies, to refuse to recognize the legally married status of interfaith couples, interracial couples, same-sex couples and couples where one partner is a divorcee. We are convinced that these provisions will ultimately be found unconstitutional, after a needless drain on state coffers to fund long and costly legal battles.

As a faith-based social agency, GBM never declines to welcome or provide services to any person in need – regardless of marital status, race, color, national or ethnic origin, age, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or any other characteristic. We affirm our shared faith as a diverse expression of grace and justice, which should never be used to discriminate or destroy. Even if HB56 passes the Alabama Senate in its pending vote and is signed into law, these two factors – our identity and our faith – will remain unchanged.