A bill to eliminate marriage licenses in Alabama and instead have couples file an affidavit that probate judges would record as part of a marriage document moved a step close to becoming law today.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill by Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range. Albritton has tried to pass similar bills since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015.
After the Supreme Court decision, probate judges in some Alabama counties stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether because they did not want to license same-sex marriages. Albritton said his bill would eliminate the discrepancy.
“This will allow everyone to be married in their home county,” Albritton said.
The Senate passed Albritton’s bill by a vote of 26-0 on March 21. Today’s approval by the House Judiciary Committee puts it in position for final passage by the House.
Current law says couples wanting to get married must obtain a license from a probate judge. The law says probate judges “may” issue licenses but does not require them to.
“There’s still counties that will not issue marriage licenses,” Albritton said. “They take the word may to the extreme, if you will.”
Albritton did not know exactly how many but said there were probably about seven such counties.
Albritton’s bill said probate judges “shall” record each marriage if couples provide the proper documentation. That includes affidavits saying they are of legal age, are not already married, are not related and are competent to enter a marriage.
“I would suggest this is the end of the state telling people who they can and cannot marry. A license is permission,” Albritton said.
His bill would also eliminate the requirement in current law to hold a ceremony to “solemnize” a marriage. Current law requires the minister, judge, retired judge or person otherwise authorized to perform a ceremony to sign the marriage license before it is recorded as a certificate or marriage.
The committee approved the bill on a voice vote today. Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove, voted against it. Coleman said she opposed the bill because of its origins, the resistance of some probate judges to licensing same-sex marriages after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
“I do remember the original dialogue where it came from,” Coleman said. “So that was my no vote. It was still one of those kind of protest votes against what I felt was the original reason why we were here with this bill in the first place.”