In this week’s update I will discuss four issues:
1) SB1 – Ignition interlock devices
2) SB13 – Marriage licenses
3) HB76 – Daycare Bill
4) Congressional House of Representatives passage of Rep. Bradley Byrne’s bill benefiting the Poarch Band of Creek Indians
1) SB1 (Senate Bill 1), sponsored by Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville, AL), passed out of the Senate after several amendments were added. The major amendment placed a “sunset” on the law after 5 years, which means that the law will end after 5 years unless the Legislature renews it before then. The thinking is that this will give time to gather statistics on the effectiveness of requiring interlock devices on the cars of individuals convicted of a DUI (Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or other drugs) after their first offense. Other states who already have this law in place have seen a substantial reduction in repeat DUI offenders. ALCAP supports any laws that will reduce the number of people killed or injured due to drunk driving.
2) SB13, sponsored by Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Bay Minette, AL), eliminates marriage licenses in the state. For several years, ALCAP has been warning pastors and churches that changes in the definition of marriage were going to have a major impact on churches and Bible-believing followers of Christ and we have urged pastors to get engaged in the cultural battle before it was too late. Sadly, the shift in the culture happened even faster that many of us predicted. Three or four years ago, ALCAP’s legal advisor, Eric Johnston, tried to get the Alabama Legislature to address the problems associated with same-sex marriage in a pre-emptive manner, but no one seemed interested. After the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in the Obergefell v Hodges case in June 2015, our culture entered an entirely new world, completely unlike anything we have seen before.
In light of the Obergefell v Hodges case and, in order to protect the religious freedoms of probate judges and other civil servants who, as followers of Christ and who share our convictions that same-sex marriages go against God’s definition of marriage, from being forced to perform same-sex marriages, SB13, while not ideal, is about the only option we have left in our current situation. Amendments were added to the bill in committee that may be important if the Obergefell v Hodges case is ever overturned, so that was certainly good.
Sen. Albritton has pointed out that before about 1925, all marriages were handled the way this bill establishes. Couples would simply go to the courthouse and register their marriage. There were no marriage licenses. The idea of the State licensing marriages was begun as a practice to curb the tide of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and in order to get a license, couples had to get a blood test. The requirement for a blood test was ended several years ago, so that motivation for the State licensing marriages is no longer present.
Churches and various faith groups may still require a marriage ceremony in order for marriages to be recognized within their own belief system, but the State (if this bill passes the House and is signed by the Governor) will no longer be involved in the “marriage business.” Pastors will no longer be required to sign marriage licenses and send them to the local probate judge, but couples will be required to go to the courthouse and register their marriage. Many churches have presented couples with a certificate of marriage, acknowledging the date and location of their marriage ceremony, and I would encourage churches to continue (or begin) this practice. While the State may stop officially requiring a marriage ceremony, churches should continue to follow God’s Word in this matter.
I am available to speak to groups of pastors on this and other issues (or recommend individuals who can do so). Feel free to email me or call my office (205.985.9062) to schedule a meeting in your area.
3) HB76, sponsored by Rep. Pebblin Warren (D-Tuskegee, AL), deals with church-sponsored daycares. When the bill was first introduced last year it required all church daycares in Alabama to be licensed by the Department of Human Resources, but it was amended so that the religious freedoms of churches were protected. The bill passed the House last year, but failed to pass the Senate. This year’s version is almost identical to the final version from last year, but with three additional amendments that the Alabama Christian Educators Association insisted be added. We feel that this bill is one that ALCAP can support. It both protects children and the religious freedoms of churches. For a better explanation of this bill, click here for a statement from ALCAP’s legal advisor, Eric Johnston.
4) The following statement concerning the Poarch Indian legal fix, passed by the United States House of Representatives, was prepared by Eric Johnston and released this week by ALCAP, Eagle Forum of Alabama and the Southeast Law Institute. I ask that you especially read the “ADDITIONAL NOTE” I added at the end of the statement concerning Rep. Gary Palmer’s rumored support of this bill. (Spoiler alert: Rep. Palmer did NOT support this bill!)
Contact: Joe Godfrey
Phone: (205) 612-1917
EAGLE FORUM OF ALABAMA
Contact: Eunie Smith
Phone: (205) 879-7096
SOUTHEAST LAW INSTITUTE
Contact: A. Eric Johnston
Phone: (205) 408-8893
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 23, 2018
POARCH INDIAN LEGAL FIX NOT IN THE BEST INTEREST OF ALABAMA
Last Friday, the House of Representatives passed the Land Reaffirmation Act which gives the Poarch Band of Creek Indians recognition as an Indian tribe under federal law. This is a fix for the Poarch Indians to save their gambling enterprises.
In Carcieri v. Salazar (2009), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Indian tribes not recognized in 1934 could not hold tribal land in trust. If an Indian tribe cannot hold land in trust, it cannot operate gambling enterprises. Though there have been attempts to address this issue in the courts, none have been determinative of the issue for the Poarch Indians, who were not recognized as an Indian tribe until 1984.
In Rape v. Poarch Band of Creek Indians (2017), the Alabama Supreme Court ruled the tribe did not meet the federal standard. This state court ruling is not, however, determinative of the issue, but provides a sound foundation for the legal fact that the Poarch Indians are operating unlawfully.
The Alabama Supreme Court also found that the type of gambling conducted by the Poarch Indians in Alabama was unlawful, but state courts do not have jurisdiction to prosecute Indian operations. It is not bingo permitted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and violates the very explicit and numerous rulings by the Alabama Supreme Court that the electronic bingo taking place in both Indian and non-Indian venues violates the Alabama Constitution and its criminal laws.
The Land Reaffirmation Act attempts to lay a basis for permitting legal operations by the Poarch Indians. The obvious conclusion is that they seek to legalize their gambling and to expand their gambling which may include entering into a compact with the State of Alabama. This would allow unlimited types of gambling.
Gambling is a regressive tax. It is addictive. It injures families. It results in reduced sales tax collections. It does not help the State of Alabama.
Currently, we have other unlawful gambling operations taking place at VictoryLand and other non-Indian venues. Expanding the Poarch Indians’ ability to gamble will only embolden the non-Indian gamblers, who will be seeking nothing more than to be treated equally.
Gambling is a multi-million dollar business. It is an improper way for the state to build its tax structure. It puts millions of dollars in the hands of gamblers who would in turn become kingmakers in the political processes of the State of Alabama.
Senator Richard Shelby’s vote is necessary for this bill to pass. We thank him for his position against the bill and encourage him to remain firm in that commitment. We are also grateful for Governor Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall taking a strong position against this legislation. They are all concerned with the welfare of the people of the State of Alabama. [NOTE: This is in no way an endorsement of Kay Ivey or Steve Marshall, but we are grateful for their stated opposition to this bill.]
Since this statement was written by ALCAP’s legal advisor, Eric Johnston, we have been in contact with Rep. Gary Palmer. Rumors were floated that all of the Alabama Congressional Delegation had supported Rep. Byrne’s bill. However, Rep. Palmer explained to me that this is not true. Rep. Byrne got his bill passed by a voice vote when only a handful of congressmen/women were present on the floor. Unlike the rules in the Alabama Legislature where all representatives and senators representing a certain area must agree on “local legislation,” this is not true in Congress. Rep. Palmer assured me that he remains adamantly opposed to Rep. Byrne’s bill because of its implications on gambling.