SOTU 2016 Alabama guest list: Matt Murphy and Civil Rights foot soldier among delegation's guests
What do talk radio host Matt Murphy and the youngest participant in the Selma to Montgomery march have in common? They'll both at President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address Tuesday night, as separate guests of members of Alabama's congressional delegation.
Murphy, who hosts his eponymous radio show on WAPI, will be the guest of Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, while voting rights activist Sheyann Webb-Christburg was invited by Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham.
Members of Congress are given guest tickets to the State of the Union, with some choosing a symbolic reason behind their selection.
Sewell's invitation to Webb-Christburg, who was 8 years old in 1965 when she participated in the historic march, is a call to attention for the congresswoman's bill that would restore protections to the Civil Rights Act. Sewell has been a critic of the decision to close driver's licenses offices in the state to fix a budget crunch, saying the move disproportionately affects African Americans and the poor.
"My hope is [Webb-Christburg's] presence at the president's address will remind us of the modern day fight for ensuring that ever American citizen has access to the ballot box," the congresswoman said in a statement. "The closure of DMV offices in Alabama last year proves that barriers to voting still exist and that Congress should pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act now!"
Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, gave his guest ticket to Tommy Hughes, an Alabamian with Open Doors, an organization that monitors the persecution of Christians around the world, according to the congressman's spokesman.
Sgt. Gabriela Torain, an enlisted Marine, is the guest of Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, who asked the commandant of the Marine Corps. to identify a service member whose "distinguished service" made them worthy of the honor.
Scott Dawson of the Birmingham-based Scott Dawson Evangelistic Association, a ministry celebrating its 28th year, is the guest of Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Hoover.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, invited a staffer from his D.C. office, while Sen. Jeff Sessions and Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, opted not to use their guest tickets.
Sen. Richard Shelby's office could not immediately be reached for comment on whether he was bringing a guest.
Perhaps the most high-profile guest of the 2016 speech will be Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who became the poster child for religious liberty among conservatives for her stance not to issue marriage licenses after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage last summer. Davis was jailed for her refusal to comply with the law and was supported by GOP presidential candidates, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.