Some Alabama judges oppose gay marriage — so the state may eliminate marriage licenses

Some Alabama judges oppose gay marriage — so the state may eliminate marriage licenses
Due to disagreements with same-sex marriages, the Legislature in Alabama is considering a bill that would eliminate marriage licenses and the requirement for a marriage ceremony. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

After several years of disagreement, and sometimes rebellion, against the law allowing same-sex marriages, the Alabama Legislature is considering a bill that would eliminate marriage licenses and the requirement for a marriage ceremony.

Why would they do that?

The current state law says probate judges may issue marriage licenses — but it doesn’t say they have to.

So, some judges who disagreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 stopped issuing the licenses because they didn’t want to have to issue them to gay couples.

The solution, according to Republican state Sen. Greg Albritton, is to eliminate the licenses altogether.

Instead, couples would just submit a form to a probate judge swearing that they are willingly getting married, not already married, not related, and of legal age. The judge simply records the form. It eliminates the discretion of the judge to issue or not issue a license, theoretically eliminating the potential religious or moral conflict for some judges.

Albritton said he is bringing this bill forward not to oppose the law on same-sex marriage, but to bring Alabama in compliance with it.

“We have to bring a bill because of this decision,” Albritton said. “I can’t change the decision. That decision is the law of the land. The only thing I can do is try to make it easier and try to find some kind of middle ground that we in Alabama can live under the law.”

What are the chances of it passing?

The bill passed the Senate by a 19-1 margin on Jan. 16, and is currently under review by the House Judiciary Committee.

“The fact that it passed the Senate on the first day with almost no opposition gives it a good chance of becoming law,” said Todd Stacy, publisher of the Alabama Daily News.

But this isn’t the first time Albritton has put similar measures forward since same-sex marriage was legalized. It could potentially be voted on by the House next week.

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