Legislature(2015 - 2016)GRUENBERG 120

03/31/2016 01:00 PM House JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Will be Continued from 3/30/16 --
Heard & Held
-- Public & Invited Testimony --
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Scheduled but Not Heard
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
          HB 236-RIGHT TO REFUSE TO SOLEMNIZE MARRIAGE                                                                      
1:08:35 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LEDOUX announced that the  first order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO. 236, "An Act relating to marriage solemnization."                                                                
1:08:57 PM                                                                                                                    
DAVID   TALERICO,  Representative,   Alaska  State   Legislature,                                                               
paraphrased his sponsor statement as follows:                                                                                   
     A key  component of the  United States  Constitution is                                                                    
     the  secure fundamental  right  to  freely worship  and                                                                    
     practice  religion  in  America   found  in  the  First                                                                    
     Amendment.  House Bill  236  clarifies  the rights  for                                                                    
     clergy   in   Alaska.   It  acknowledges   that   those                                                                    
     authorized to  solemnize a marriage  may not  be forced                                                                    
     to  violate  their  religious beliefs  nor  will  their                                                                    
     religious freedom  be coerced by the  government or the                                                                    
     Alaska Statute  25.05.261 provides that  three entities                                                                    
     are authorized  to solemnize  marriages -  1) religious                                                                    
     leaders of  churches or congregations in  the state, 2)                                                                    
     a  marriage commissioner  or  judicial  officer of  the                                                                    
     state,   or   3)    any   religious   organization   or                                                                    
     congregation  according to  the  established ritual  or                                                                    
     form   commonly  practiced   in  the   organization  or                                                                    
     congregation.  The   intent  of  this   legislation  is                                                                    
     narrowly   focused  on   those   individuals  who   are                                                                    
     authorized to solemnize a marriage  in AS 25.05.261 (a)                                                                    
     (1) or (3).                                                                                                                
     HB 236  states that  clergy in their  official capacity                                                                    
     may  refrain   from  participating  in   solemnizing  a                                                                    
     marriage,    providing     services,    accommodations,                                                                    
     facilities or  goods related to the  solemnization of a                                                                    
     marriage  without legal  ramifications. This  bill will                                                                    
     not marginalize  any marriage relationship,  but simply                                                                    
     protects the right of all  religious leaders to conduct                                                                    
     marriage ceremonies according to their beliefs.                                                                            
     While   the  Constitution   clearly  states   that  all                                                                    
     Americans, including  clergy, have the right  to freely                                                                    
     practice   their  religion,   there   is  currently   a                                                                    
     dangerous  trend  in  America towards  the  erosion  of                                                                    
     religious liberty.  House Bill 236 affirms  the crucial                                                                    
     freedom  of   clergy  and  religious   institutions  to                                                                    
     celebrate  and solemnize  marriages in  accordance with                                                                    
     their deeply held beliefs.                                                                                                 
1:11:36 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  TALERICO   acknowledged  that   initially  people                                                               
assumed this was about same sex  marriage and he pointed out that                                                               
there  are several  things within  the  tenets of  faith and  the                                                               
beliefs of many religious institutions  that go well beyond that.                                                               
He  offered that  this bill  is about  the deeply  held religious                                                               
beliefs of the  clergy, and the state's inability  to have courts                                                               
or  government interfere  with a  person's deeply  held religious                                                               
1:13:47 PM                                                                                                                    
JOSHUA BANKS,  Staff, Representative Dave Talerico,  Alaska State                                                               
Legislature, said he is available for questions.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN opined that  the United States Constitution                                                               
provides  clergy  with the  protection  to  decline performing  a                                                               
ceremony,  and  asked  whether this  bill  provides  any  greater                                                               
protection than is created by the constitution.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  TALERICO  responded that  the  intent  is not  to                                                               
provide a  greater scope  of protection  but to  clearly identify                                                               
that Alaska firmly  holds to that constitutional  belief and that                                                               
the state  judicial system would  probably be the  first recourse                                                               
rather  than   the  federal  judicial  system.     Representative                                                               
Talerico related  his strong feelings  and said that many  of the                                                               
religious  institutions in  the state  provide services  to their                                                               
communities  with limited  budgets,  such as  single mothers  and                                                               
potentially  battered  spouses.   He  expressed  concern for  the                                                               
clergy being  able to continue  performing these  services rather                                                               
than directing its time and money toward a legal defense.                                                                       
1:18:05 PM                                                                                                                    
BISHOP  EDWARD BURNS,  Diocese of  Juneau  and Southeast  Alaska,                                                               
paraphrased a letter signed by  Roger L. Schwietz, Archdiocese of                                                               
Anchorage; Chad  W. Zielinski, Diocese  of Fairbanks;  and Edward                                                               
Burns, Diocese of Juneau, as follows:                                                                                           
     As pastors, we have  watched as our religious liberties                                                                    
     have  eroded   over  the  last   several  years   on  a                                                                    
     nationwide  level.  As  you  know,  our  United  States                                                                    
     Constitution  ensures  all  people to  freely  practice                                                                    
     their  religious  beliefs  according  to  the  tennents                                                                    
     [sic] of their individual  faith traditions. As leaders                                                                    
     of  the  Roman  Catholic   Church  in  Alaska,  we  are                                                                    
     grateful  that  Rep.   Talerico  and  Senator  Miccichi                                                                    
     introduced this  legislation to clarify and  codify our                                                                    
     rights here in Alaska.                                                                                                     
     From our perspective,  the bill you have  before you is                                                                    
     important  on several  fronts. First,  it ensures  that                                                                    
     neither we  nor our priests or  deacons Statewide would                                                                    
     be  required  to solemnize  a  same  sex marriage.  Our                                                                    
     Catholic   faith  tradition   clearly  professes   that                                                                    
     marriage is defined  as between one man  and one woman.                                                                    
     While  it is  doubtful  that a  same  sex couple  would                                                                    
     present themselves  to one of  our pastors and  ask him                                                                    
     to  solemnize their  marriage,  this legislation  would                                                                    
     uphold our religious liberties.                                                                                            
     Our second reason for supporting  this bill is based on                                                                    
     the assurances that  we would not be  required to allow                                                                    
     parish or church facilities to  be used for services or                                                                    
     events that  would be tied  to a  union that we  do not                                                                    
     Here in  Juneau, many of  you may be familiar  with the                                                                    
     Shrine of St. Therese. St.  Therese is the patron saint                                                                    
     of Alaska.   In 1938,  a little stone chapel  was built                                                                    
     in  her honor  22  miles north  of  here. Two  previous                                                                    
     bishops of  the Diocese  of Juneau, Bishop  Cremont and                                                                    
     Bishop  Kenny are  buried directly  under the  altar of                                                                    
     this  sacred space.  Over  the last  75  years we  have                                                                    
     welcomed  guests from  all over  the world.  Because of                                                                    
     the unique  surroundings and the simple  beauty of this                                                                    
     small chapel, many weddings have  occurred here. In the                                                                    
     past we  have allowed all  faith traditions to  use the                                                                    
     chapel. Now, we limit  it strictly to Catholic weddings                                                                    
     between  one  man  and  one   woman.  Passage  of  this                                                                    
     legislation would ensure we  could maintain our current                                                                    
     In  the Archdiocese  of Anchorage,  we  have a  mission                                                                    
     parish in Girdwood, Our Lady  of the Snows. This chapel                                                                    
     has   been  marketed   through  Alyeska   Hotel  as   a                                                                    
     "destination  wedding"   location.  A  clause   in  the                                                                    
     contract  that  the  Archdiocese  has  with  the  hotel                                                                    
     states that  marriages or use  of the facility  may not                                                                    
     conflict   with   Catholic    Church   teaching.   This                                                                    
     legislation would ensure that  clause would remain true                                                                    
     to our  church teaching  and that  the chapel  would be                                                                    
     used  for   couples  who  support  our   definition  of                                                                    
     In  the  Diocese  of   Fairbanks,  we  have  Immaculate                                                                    
     Conception Church on the banks  of the Chena River. The                                                                    
     distinctive  white  buildings  with  it  tapering  bell                                                                    
     tower  and statue  of our  Holy Mother  Mary is  on the                                                                    
     National  Historical  Register.  It  attracts  interest                                                                    
     from Catholic  and non-Catholics  alike as a  venue for                                                                    
     marriage ceremonies.  This bill would provide  peace of                                                                    
     mind  should   we  need   to  decline   enquiries  from                                                                    
     inappropriate parties.                                                                                                     
     We  urge  you  to   support  this  important  piece  of                                                                    
     legislation  that will  ensure our  religious liberties                                                                    
     will be maintained.                                                                                                        
1:23:24 PM                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN asked whether the facilities would be                                                                     
rented to an event such as a high school graduation party.                                                                      
BISHOP BURNS  answered that the  church would ascertain  that the                                                               
event is upheld within the  church's moral standard and tenets of                                                               
its  faith  as  opposed  to  groups of  people  contrary  to  the                                                               
church's teachings.                                                                                                             
1:24:37 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  LEDOUX  asked  whether,  currently,  facilities  could  be                                                               
rented  to a  Catholic and  a non-Catholic  couple marrying  in a                                                               
non-religious ceremony.                                                                                                         
BISHOP  BURNS  said   that  the  facilities  could   be  used  by                                                               
individuals who were Catholic and non-Catholic ...                                                                              
CHAIR  LEDOUX clarified  that it  would  be a  Catholic and  non-                                                               
Catholic couple marrying each other.                                                                                            
BISHOP BURNS  said right,  and explained  that there  are certain                                                               
regulations for  the couples getting married,  whether a Catholic                                                               
is marrying  a non-baptized person  or a non-Catholic,  that they                                                               
would  simply  follow the  tenets  of  the  Catholic faith.    He                                                               
expressed that the  church would be more than  open and welcoming                                                               
to their marriage in the chapel.                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX  continued the  scenario of  allowing a  marriage in                                                               
the chapel with  a non-Catholic person not agreeing  to raise the                                                               
children in  the church or  follow the  tenets of the  faith, and                                                               
asked whether  the church would  still rent the facility  to them                                                               
if they  were married by  a judge  and wanted to  celebrate their                                                               
reception at the church facility.                                                                                               
1:26:03 PM                                                                                                                    
BISHOP BURNS  advised that the  church would not rent  its chapel                                                               
space out  for such a use  because the marriages taking  place in                                                               
the  chapel follow  the  rites of  the church  and  it would  not                                                               
afford the chapel for a Justice  of the Peace to conduct weddings                                                               
because  it  is  a  Catholic  chapel.    It  becomes  a  pastoral                                                               
discussion, he said,  when there may be question  between a bride                                                               
and groom  regarding faith and  he extended the  tensions between                                                               
them  would not  necessarily preclude  them from  marrying there.                                                               
He  reiterated  that it  doesn't  necessarily  preclude that  the                                                               
church would not allow the wedding to take place.                                                                               
CHAIR LEDOUX offered a scenario that  a Baptist Church was in the                                                               
vicinity and  two Baptists wanted  to use the Catholic  Church to                                                               
be married ...                                                                                                                  
BISHOP  BURNS replied  there  was  a day  the  church would  have                                                               
allowed  that.   Times have  changed, he  said, and  the Catholic                                                               
Church recognized  it could be the  recipient of a lawsuit  if it                                                               
did not  open it up to  everyone, thereby, causing the  church to                                                               
establish policies  to only conduct  Catholic weddings.   He then                                                               
described  a letter  he received  wherein a  couple wished  to be                                                               
married at  the Shrine  of St.  Thérèse but  due to  the church's                                                               
current  policy,   all  weddings   are  restricted   to  Catholic                                                               
weddings.  He  stated the church is before  this committee asking                                                               
that  the  government  not  force   the  church  to  violate  its                                                               
religious beliefs and the ability  to exercise religious liberty.                                                               
It  is within  the church's  tradition  to go  outside its  walls                                                               
especially when  given a mission  to feed the hungry,  clothe the                                                               
naked,  and give  drink  to the  thirsty.   He  related that  the                                                               
church  helps  all  people  no matter  their  identity  or  their                                                               
orientation, and it  embraces all people as  brothers and sisters                                                               
and it is not discriminatory for  the church to say no to certain                                                               
things and uphold its beliefs, he related.                                                                                      
1:30:52 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  MILLETT asked  whether the  consistencies in  the                                                               
church's policies statewide keeps it  from opening itself up to a                                                               
1:31:22 PM                                                                                                                    
BISHOP BURNS agreed.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  MILLETT surmised  that this  bill would  not only                                                               
protect the  Catholic Church  from a  lawsuit but  also churches,                                                               
synagogues,  mosques,  or  anyone  with  policies  set  in  place                                                               
consistent with its beliefs.                                                                                                    
BISHOP BURN  agreed, and  he pointed  out that  the image  of the                                                               
shepherd is to  protect the flock, protect the  faith, defend the                                                               
faith,  but  also a  responsibility  to  protect and  defend  the                                                               
resources of  the church.   In time  society changes so  the laws                                                               
begin to  change and the  church has seen  it must take  steps to                                                               
uphold and defend its faith and resources, he said.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT  commented that  the church  is protecting                                                               
its religious freedoms.                                                                                                         
BISHOP BURNS agreed.                                                                                                            
1:33:34 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN offered  a scenario  of a  Lutheran couple                                                               
asking the  church whether they  could get married at  the Shrine                                                               
of St. Therese  and asked whether they could be  married there if                                                               
a Catholic priest performed the ceremony.                                                                                       
BISHOP  BURNS  responded "Yes,"  they  could  be married  at  the                                                               
Shrine of St. Therese if they  then entered into the rites of the                                                               
Catholic Church.                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN  surmised that  in order  to be  married in                                                               
the Catholic  Church, a  Catholic priest  or someone  wearing the                                                               
cloth performs the ceremony.                                                                                                    
BISHOP BURNS agreed.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN referred to  the Lutheran couple, and asked                                                               
whether the  church would allow  them to  rent the Shrine  of St.                                                               
Therese for the wedding reception.                                                                                              
BISHOP BURNS replied absolutely.                                                                                                
1:35:13 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LEDOUX asked whether that is the current policy.                                                                          
BISHOP BURNS said  it would be allowed now because  the church is                                                               
not performing  a sacrament  so it is  not a  religious ceremony.                                                               
He explained the  couple would be allowed to use  the facility in                                                               
a manner  that is not  contrary to  the teaching of  the church's                                                               
faith because the church rejoices in  the marriage of a man and a                                                               
woman in  all faiths.   Although,  he said,  the wedding  did not                                                               
take  place  within the  Catholic  Church's  faith it  upholds  a                                                               
marriage between one man and one  woman and they would be allowed                                                               
to use  the facilities.   Currently,  people live  in interesting                                                               
times  it is  important to  look at  these interesting  times and                                                               
come forward, he said.                                                                                                          
CHAIR  LEDOUX  commented  that  the   phrase  "May  you  live  in                                                               
interesting times" is a Chinese curse.                                                                                          
CHAIR LEDOUX open public testimony.                                                                                             
1:37:32 PM                                                                                                                    
The committee took an at-ease from to 1:37 p.m. to 1:38 p.m.                                                                    
1:38:33 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LEDOUX  advised the  bill would  be held  over to  give the                                                               
public an opportunity to testify.                                                                                               
[HB 236 was held over.]                                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 236 - Supporting Document - Texas House Passes Pastor Protection Act.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Supporting Document - SB 2065 - Summary - Texas.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Supporting Document - SB 2065 - Legislation - Texas.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Sectional Analysis.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Sponsor Statement.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Letters of Support - Received by 3-17-16.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Letters of Opposition - Received by 3-17-16.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Legislation Ver. A.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Backup Documents - Texas Legislation.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 -Supporting Document- Letter of Support AK Catholic Conference 3-31-16.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 317 - CS ver W.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 317
HB 317 - Explanation of Changes - ver A to ver W.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 317
HB 317 - Letter of Opposition - DPS 03.31.16.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 317
HB 317 - Fiscal Note -DPS-COMM-03-29-16.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 317
HB 317 - Fiscal Note -LAW-CRIM-03-25-16.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 317
HB 317 - Supporting Documents - Side-by-Side Comparison - HB 317 vs Current.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 317
HB 317 - Supporting Documents - DOJ Asset Forfeiture in AK 2015.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 317
HB 317 - Supporting Documents - DOJ Memo Structuring Policy-Directive.pdf HJUD 3/31/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 317