House Judiciary panel blocks LGBT civil rights bill

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On Wednesday, members of the public were prepared to weigh in on Rep. Chris England’s proposal to expand civil rights protections to include more members of the LGBT community. However, at the last minute, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Jones announced that the public hearing had been cancelled. The committee voted instead to carry House Bill 615 over for further discussion.

HB 615 would establish civil rights protections against any discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or familiar status. England said that each characteristic identified in the bill – race, class, and religion, for example – had been because the group had suffered some form of discrimination.

England told lawmakers, “There has been some history that if it isn’t enumerated, it isn’t protected.”

Rep. Merika Coleman-Evans offered her support of the bill, saying, “It would be nice for Alabama to be at the beginning of the trend and not always at the tail end.”

However, other lawmakers expressed concerns over whether the language in HB 615 could be challenged in the courts.

“I would like to table this until we’ve had more time for discussion,”  Rep. David Faulkner said. “This bill came very late and it raises some very big issues.”

England’s bill is one of two civil rights bills that committee members discussed this week. On Tuesday, the panel gave a favorable report to House Bill 657, companion legislation to a proposal filed last week by Sen. Del Marsh to ban discrimination against state employees on the basis of “immutable” characteristics unrelated to a person’s job performance.


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