Ala.: Bill on LGBT Discrimination Introduced but Voted Down in Committee

By Rosemarie Lally Jun 9, 2015
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Bills in the Alabama state Senate targeted at LGBT individuals seem to have died in the waning days of the legislative session, but one bill that would create anti-discrimination protections for those individuals was carried over after its sponsor objected to the fact that it hadn’t received a public hearing.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, a Republican, introduced a bill to prohibit discrimination in the hiring of state employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in addition to race, ethnicity, and sex. He introduced the bill toward the end of the legislative session after several bills targeting LGBT individuals had made progress through the legislature.

For example, a bill that would prevent anyone from being forced to officiate a marriage against their beliefs was passed by the House in March. That bill, and one that would limit the ability of gay couples to adopt children, are unlikely to come up for a vote this session, according to Marsh.

Marsh, who said he introduced his measure at the request of the business community, views his measure as an “economic development bill” and a response to some industrialists who have made negative comments about Alabama. “We as a state do not discriminate against anyone,” Marsh said.” We want to dispel that idea and make it clear we’re open for business.”

Tim Cook, Apple CEO and an Auburn graduate, had spoken at the state capitol in 2014, criticizing the slow progress made by Alabama in securing LGBT rights and protection from discrimination. Marsh said it was important to respond to that impression on the part of the business community. "We want to do anything we can to dispel the thoughts we are not a state that treats people fairly and equally," he said.

However, the measure was criticized by some as unconstitutional because it would create two classes of employees: public employees who would be protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and private employees who would not be protected. Other lawmakers criticized the speed with which the bill moved into committee.

A Senate committee refused to vote on Marsh’s bill May 21, meaning it is likely dead for the session.

Rosemarie Lally, J.D., is a freelance legal writer and editor based in Washington, D.C.

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