MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A House committee in Alabama has approved a bill that would abolish the use of marriage licenses in the state and end solemnization requirements, a move that some believe will remove Alabama from the argument over same-sex nuptials.
Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Bay Minette, introduced S.B. 143 in February, which states that one of its purposes is to “abolish the requirement that a marriage license be issued by the judge of probate and replace existing state statutory marriage law with a statutory contract for marriage.”
“All requirements to obtain a marriage license by the State of Alabama are hereby abolished and repealed. The requirement of a ceremony of marriage to solemnized the marriage is abolished,” it reads in part.
Under current law, those desiring to marry must obtain a license, have the union solemnized either in a ceremony or before a judge, and have the license then signed by the officiator.
Albritton said that his bill separates church and state as the state would have no part in the marriage and ministers would no longer act on behalf of the state.
“It keeps elected officials from preventing or performing civil ceremonies, but also prevents ministers from performing ceremonies under the auspices of the state,” he told reporters.
Those entering into a marriage would instead submit signed affidavits to their local probate judge, who will record the information and also transfer the contract to the Vital Statistics office.
The bill was passed in the Senate 23–3 in March, and last Wednesday, it cleared the House Judiciary Committee as well.
But not all are in favor of the measure. Retired Baptist preacher Gary Hardin of Centre told the publication The Alabama Baptist that having couples merely sign a form cheapens the lifelong commitment made before God.
“This is a horrible message to couples,” he said. “By using the terms ‘contract’ or ‘form,’ you have reduced marriage from its high and lofty level—biblically and in the sight of God—to something that is more on the low ground. You are using terminology that devalues marriage.”
“I am not for same-sex ‘marriage.’ I don’t think God approves of that,” Hardin stated. “But the way they have overreacted, they have reduced the sanctity of marriage to a form.”
But Albritton says that the concept of having a marriage license is relatively recent in American history.
“When you invite the state into those matters of personal or religious import, it creates difficulties. … Early twentieth century, if you go back and look and try to find marriage licenses for your grandparents or great grandparents, you won’t find it. What you will find instead is where people have come in and recorded when a marriage has occurred,” he told the Associate Press when he first proposed the idea last year.
“Something rarely considered by those seeking to control the state’s definition of marriage is that a marriage license means a person requires government permission before getting married,” Yellowhammer News also outlines. “In America, people generally cannot drive a vehicle without a license. People cannot practice law without a license, nor can they provide medical care.”
“Put another way, under a licensing scheme, marriage is not a right, nor a religious institution, but a privilege granted by the state and limited by its requirements,” it says.