By Tyler Pruett
MONTGOMERY, Ala— On March 15, the Senate passed a bill introduced by Senator Greg Albritton (R-Bay Minette) that would abolish marriage licensing laws in Alabama. Senate Bill 143 would end the continuous same-sex marriage debate; neutralizing both sides of the argument.
About a century ago, probate judges simply recorded marriages based on affidavits between the two parties in lieu of issuing licenses, requiring a ceremony, or charging a fee. SB 143 would effectively remove the state’s role from the issue of marriage, while retaining basic guidelines, such as minors between the ages of 16 and 18 being required to seek parental permission. Marriages would also still be between only two consenting parties.
“I’ve spent a year and a half developing this process in anticipation of the United States Supreme Court decision,” Albritton said, referring to the supreme court’s decision to overturn the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling regarding same-sex adoptions and marriages.
“The U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Alabama court’s ruling, but that does not change the statute,” he said, “We must bring Alabama in line with the federal statutes, and this bill does that.”
“We’re changing the procedure so that we don’t have to give the state authority when you want to get married. The current law gives the probate judges the authority of an ordained minister because of the ceremony requirement,” Albritton added.
The current law treats marriage as a privilege granted by the state, and leaves open the possibility of a marriage being defined and potentially revoked by the state if it doesn’t meet certain criteria. SB 143 would remove that authority from the state, and place it in the hands of the responsible parties. It would also allow parties to record a marriage after the union takes place, as opposed to the current system which requires individuals to seek a marriage license before.
In 2015, Albritton introduced a similar bill, which was passed by a majority of the senate, but died in the house. When asked if this bill might suffer the same fate, he replied, “I think we have the votes to get it through the committee and then the house. I think we are in good shape.”
“We’ve had opposition from the left and the right, which let’s me know we are in the middle on this issue,” Albritton said. “The Alabama Supreme Court can’t fight the issue anymore since their case has been dismissed.”
Regardless if Senate Bill 143 passes or not, the supreme court decision leaves a hole in Alabama marriage laws. With some probate judges choosing to follow the supreme court decision and others the state court’s decision, the current climate has caused much of the authority to rest on probate judges. Marriage licensing can vary now from county to county; with judges refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses in violation of federal law.
SB 143 will be voted on in the appropriate house committee and if passed, will go before the house for full approval.