Alabama lawmaker wants to nix marriage licenses

Marriage | A novel approach to the same-sex marriage dilemma for government workers
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 3/24/17, 12:24 pm

Alabama is considering a law that would abolish marriage licenses in the state.

The proposed bill, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Greg Albritton, amends Alabama law to remove any requirement that couples obtain marriage licenses or have marriage ceremonies.

Albritton said the law would protect the religious liberty of probate judges and clergy who have moral objections to signing same-sex marriage licenses while also avoiding likely litigation.

“It keeps the state from making the decision of who can and cannot get married,” Albritton said. “It prevents the state from that gatekeeper position.”

Instead, under the proposed bill, couples would file signed affidavits with a probate judge, who would be required to record, but not authorize or condone, marriages. The notarized affidavit would ask each party to declare they were old enough to marry, not currently married, not related, and voluntarily desired to marry. The bill also would remove any requirement that a ceremony take place.

Some conservative opponents argue the bill threatens the sanctity of marriage. Two Republican state senators spoke against the bill during the Senate hearing, arguing the state should have a role in authorizing marriage and that removing marriage licenses and ceremony requirements would reduce marriage to a contract between two parties.

“To take it and reduce it to a contractual arrangement like a mortgage or a deed feels a little concerning,” Republican Sen. Phil Williams said during debate.

But Albritton maintained the “state does not make things sacred.”

He said his goal with the bill was simply to resolve a judicial controversy. Eight Alabama counties still refuse to issue marriage licenses since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.

“I am not changing marriage. I am not changing the definition of marriage,” Albritton said. “The courts have already decided, both local state courts and federal courts. … I am just changing the procedure.”

The bill cleared the Alabama Senate by a vote of 22-6 earlier this month and is awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

This is the fourth time Albritton has introduced the bill since a federal judge struck down an Alabama law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman in early 2015. Albritton’s bills have always cleared the Senate but failed in the House.

During a special session in September 2015, the bill came up for a vote before the whole House of Representatives. A majority of representatives voted for it, but it failed because it did not get the two-thirds majority required to pass in the special session.

Albritton said he anticipated the bill would pass out of the House Judiciary Committee and hoped it would get a vote before the whole House this session.

Alabama will be the first state with such a law if the bill passes. Oklahoma tried and failed to pass a similar measure in 2015.

But Albritton says this is not a new idea: “I am only going back to the way we were doing things about 100 years ago,” he said, noting that until Alabama initiated marriage licenses in the early 20th century, marriages were conducted and then recorded in the probate office, exactly as his bill would require. 

Kiley Crossland

Kiley is a former WORLD correspondent.

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  • Rich277
    Posted: Fri, 03/24/2017 01:42 pm

    The government has shown that it is no longer capable of exercising any kind of discernment when it comes to marriage.  They are barely qualified to even recognize when one has taken place.  This is a great idea.  The validity of a marriage comes only from God, so we should look to Him, not the state, for that stamp of approval.

  •  Greg Mangrum's picture
    Greg Mangrum
    Posted: Sat, 03/25/2017 12:03 am

    I like this libertarian idea a lot. However, the gay lobby will throw a fit because they like to force people to accept whatever it is that they are promoting. Get ready for the apoplexy.

  • Koni in WA
    Posted: Sun, 03/26/2017 06:05 pm

    I've long thought that the state should not be in the business of marriage.  I feel that is is for individuals and their churches to handle together, this way it could be kept a ceremony of faith. No church? No problem...there are banquet rooms and meeting halls for those who have no religious affiliation. Thus pastors could not be pressured to perform a ceremony that does not have the weight of law behind it. The government screws up everything that it touches. They didn't always have their fingers in the governing of marriage, they took it from the church - just like they took the social welfare system from the church; and we all know what a fiasco they made of that.

  • VSKluth's picture
    Posted: Sun, 03/26/2017 09:53 pm

    A novel idea, for sure - but a difficulty I see is that state benefits are tied to marriage.  This opens the door for a greater abuse of state funds.  Marriage has two intractable ties: one secular, and one religious.