Alabama bill would allow ministers to refuse to officiate same-sex marriages

Alabama state capitol in Montgomery.

Alabama state capitol in Montgomery.

Alabama state capitol in Montgomery.

Alabama state capitol in Montgomery.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A bill working its way through the Alabama Legislature would allow probate judges and ministers to refuse to marry same-sex couples on religious grounds.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday heard passionate testimony about the bill that the sponsor says came about after a brief period of legalized same-sex marriage in Alabama.

Proponents say the bill would protect religious beliefs, but opponents say clergy are already protected under the U.S. Constitution, and that the bill opens the door to broader discrimination of same-sex couples and other groups.

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Rep. Jim Hill says he brought the bill, which has already passed the House, after a federal judge ruled that Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. He says the legislation wouldn’t prevent gay couples from marrying.

About 500 same-sex marriages were performed in Alabama earlier this year during a three-week period.

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