Post submitted by Eva Walton Kendrick
When the 2016 Alabama legislative session began in February, HRC staff and LGBT advocates across the state knew this year would be pivotal in our fight against state and national legislative attempts to limit LGBT rights. As expected, Alabama legislators have sought to limit the rights of LGBT families and children, while other Southern legislatures have led similar attacks on LGBT people with equal fervor.
Now in the fourteenth week of the 2016 legislative year, 35 state legislatures are or have been in session across the United States with nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills introduced in 34 states. More than 120 anti-LGBT bills are being or have been considered in just eight southern states: Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Georgia. As Georgia’s First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), HB 757, North Carolina’s sweepingly anti-LGBT HB2, and Mississippi’s devastating HB 1523, the “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act,” prove, southern legislators are actively targeting the LGBT community’s rights in response to the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court Decision in June 2015.
In keeping with regional legislative trends, Alabama legislators have introduced bills meant to take the state out of the marriage contract business (SB 143 and HB 362), as well as bills allowing state-licensed and state-funded child care service and placement agencies (SB 204 and HB 158) to refuse to offer services to LGBT families and children based on their religious beliefs.
The two bills we are most concerned about this session are HB 158, “The Alabama Child Placement Agency Inclusion Act,” and SB 204, “The Child Care Provider Inclusion Act.” Both seek to enshrine discrimination into law by granting child adoption and foster placement agencies, and state-contracted child care service providers, the right to discriminate in the services they offer to LGBT families and children.
Potential consequences of these bills are that a child placement agency could turn away a range of potential parents seeking to adopt a child - from LGBT couples to interfaith couples, single parents or a married couple where a prospective parent had been previously divorced. One of the cruelest consequences of these types of bills—based solely on the agency’s religious beliefs—is that they would allow agencies to refuse to place foster children with members of their extended families - a practice often considered to be in the best interest of the child
HRC Alabama has been asking our constituents to speak out with us against this bill through action alerts communicating our opposition to both bills to Senate and House leadership. At present, SB 204 remains in the Senate Rules Committee while HB 158 is currently moving through the House Health Committee.
Our office will be sharing information on HB 158 and SB 204 as well as any other anti-LGBT or pro-equality bills considered throughout the rest of the legislative session via our website, Facebook page, and through emails and text Action Alerts. If you would like to stay engaged, visit http://www.hrc.org/local-issues/alabama and sign up to receive these updates or contact Tori Wolfe-Sisson at firstname.lastname@example.org to join our Friday afternoon Lunchtime Legislative Update Conference Calls.