Alabama Senate passes bill to erase marriage licences so judges won’t give them to gay couples
The Senate in Alabama has passed a Republican-sponsored bill which aims to outlaw same-sex marriages by eliminating marriage licences altogether.
State Sen. Greg Albritton, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, stressed in an op-ed that his legislation “does not eliminate marriage as an institution recognized by the State of Alabama.”
He writes that the bill only changes the process by which marriages are officialised.
“Senate Bill 13 opens every county to marriage; no public official can deny a properly-completed form,” Albritton wrote.
“My proposal continues to restrict marriage to two people who are of legal age, mentally competent, and unrelated, just like now. Most importantly, SB13 allows all persons of faith to practice their religious ceremonies of marriage according to their faith and doctrine and removes the government from a religious sacrament.”
The anti-LGBTQ bill has now passed the Senate.
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It will now go to the state Hause for consideration. A similar bill was proposed by Ligon last year but it failed.
The bill is the latest in the efforts by Republicans in a number of jurisdictions to block same-sex marriages by refusing to issue marriage licences.
The efforts came after the US Supreme Court made a sweeping ruling which meant that same-sex couples across all 50 states could marry.
Famously, Kim Davis, a former Kentucky clerk, was jailed after she continually refused to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples.
The latest effort in Alabama, the bill now passed in the Senate, is the result of Alabama’s marriage laws which pre-dated the Supreme Court ruling.
Marriages must be solumnised by a religious leader, a court or a probate judge among other officials.
But a marriage can’t be solumnised until a marriage licence has been issued, and the law states that probate judges “may” issue marriage licences, but are not required by law to do so.
In the state, various rural probate judges stopped issuing the marriage licences altogether after the US Supreme Court ruling to legalise same-sex marriage.
The state is now considering doing away with marriage licences altogether.
Probate judges that stopped issuing marriage licences also stopped issuing them to straight couples, therefore arguing that they were not in breach of the Supreme Court ruling.
This set them apart from Kim Davis who was jailed for her refusal to issue marriage licences.
“Alabama’s been one of the toughest states when it comes to access to marriage equality because of our marriage code and because the way it’s written for judges to choose to issue licenses or not,” Eva Kendrick, director for the Human Rights Campaign in Alabama, told NPR.
The new law would mean that judges would only need to forward paperwork from a prospective newlywed couple onto the county’s Office of Vital Statistics.
They would therefore not have to attach their personal signature to the document to certify a marriage.
Judges have since argued that this means that religious freedom is protected as they would not have to endorse a same-sex marriage.
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No Democrats voted against the measure, which would effectively remove religious institutions from the marriage process altogether.
But some expressed concerns that the legislation, if passed and signed into law, would mean that Alabama couples applying for federal benefits would face problems as they would no longer have a marriage licences to prove their marriage.
Specifically on Social Security and with military benefits, [federal agencies] ask for a marriage license,” Representative Merika Coleman told NPR.
“They do not ask for a marriage contract.”
The bill will now go to the state House for a vote, but has not yet been scheduled for one.