HB 56, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jim Hill, would amend state law so that anyone performing marriages in Alabama is "not required to solemnize a marriage for any person or persons.” The bill would also prevent "any civil claim or cause of action, or any criminal prosecution, based on a refusal to solemnize or recognize any marriage.” During a House Judiciary Committee hearing on HB 56, Rep. Hill said the legislation is meant to prevent clergy and probate judges from being "coerced into conducting marriage ceremonies."
Opponents of the bill argued that the language of the legislation is so broad it would allow judges to refuse to marry couples if they object to the couple’s religious beliefs and it would allow religiously affiliated hospitals to refuse visitation rights to same-sex couples. A number of amendments were offered to try to limit the number of people who would be covered by the exemption, but they were successfully beaten back by Rep. Hill and the Republicans.
The issue here is what "solemnize" means. It could be interpreted to mean as critics say that anyone with an objection to any marriage based on religious beliefs wouldn't have to recognize it as legal. The language of the bill itself:
“A religious organization shall be immune from any civil claim or cause of action, or any criminal prosecution, based on a refusal to solemnize or recognize any marriage under this section or any other provision of Alabama law.”
“No religious organization is required to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, services, or goods related to the recognition, solemnization, or celebration of a marriage.”
What constitutes a "religious organization" here? The bill seems to enshrine the right to refuse to recognize a marriage because of religious beliefs. That's a terribly messy situation, and I absolutely see this bill being challenged in court.
After Hobby Lobby though, I'm not sure if the Supreme Court won't turn around and say the First Amendment guarantees the right to discriminate.
The reality is that Alabama Republicans are homophobic, gay-hating bigots that want to pass a law making it legal for the state to continue to be homophobic gay-hating bigots. Period. This is not about religious freedom. It is about homophobic bigotry. End of argument.