A novel approach to the same-sex marriage dilemma for government workers
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.”
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