MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama lawmakers are considering pardoning hundreds, possibly thousands, of people who were arrested decades ago for violating Alabama's segregation laws.
The idea of a mass pardon gained traction after the death last year of civil rights icon Rosa Parks, who had refused to give up her bus seat to a white man half a century earlier.
Even though the law allowing segregated seating on city buses was eventually overturned, Parks conviction is still on the record, said Rep. Thad McClammy.
"This is something that's long overdue. It's something aimed at giving the state a forward look," he said.
His proposed "Rosa Parks Act" would pardon everyone ever arrested under the state's segregation laws, which date back to the state's 1901 constitution. A House committee approved the bill Thursday, sending it to the full House for debate.
The old segregation laws required that blacks attend separate schools, use separate water fountains and theater entrances, and made it illegal for whites and blacks to marry, among other things.
There was no opposition to the proposed legislation in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, where the plan was praised by Republicans and Democrats.
"I think it's wonderful. There were 89 people arrested during the bus boycott and I think every one of them should be pardoned because of the contribution they made to the state and the nation," said Rep. Alvin Holmes, a Democrat and veteran of the civil rights movement.
The Legislature is in the final 10 days of the 2006 session, but the committee chairman, Rep. Marcel Black, said he believes there's enough time to pass the bill.
"I can't imagine anyone opposing this," said Republican Rep. Steve McMillan.