Alabama Considers Bill to Get State Out of Marriage License Business After Religious Freedom Concerns

By Lauretta Brown | September 15, 2015 | 11:53 AM EDT

Alabama Supreme Court (AP Photo)

( – The Alabama Legislature is considering new legislation that could take the state out of the wedding license business entirely. State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Bay Minnette) and State Rep. Jim Hill (R-Moody) both filed legislation Thursday that would replace state-issued marriage licenses with a marriage contract which would simply be sent to and recorded by the probate judge.

Albritton told the New York Times that some probate judges in Alabama are “preparing to go to jail” like Kentucky clerk, Kim Davis if they are ordered to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

“Kentucky is a precursor to where we are headed,” he said.

The Times reports that judges in 13 out of 67 counties in Alabama stopped issuing marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling.

Under existing Alabama law marriage licenses are issued by the probate judge, but under the proposed bill, “judges of probate would no longer issue marriage licenses upon proof of eligibility for marriage” but instead would “receive and record civil contracts of marriage presented by parties to the civil contract,” and transmit a copy of the civil contract to the Office of Vital Statistics.

The bill specifies that the probate judge “would have no authority or responsibility to make determinations of the eligibility of the parties to the contract for marriage, other than age determination.”   

The bill passed the state Senate’s General Fund Budget Committee Thursday during a special legislative session.

"The purpose of Senate Bill 377 is to bring order out of chaos," Albritton said when he introduced an earlier version of the bill in the state’s regular legislative session in April.

"The sanctity of marriage cannot be sanctified by government of men," Albritton said. "That is where we have gotten ourselves in trouble."

HRC Alabama, Equality Alabama and ACLU Alabama released the following statement about SB21: 

“There is absolutely no reason to change the way the state of Alabama handles marriages, period. While the bill impacts all Alabamians who wish to get married, it is clearly unnecessary, needless, and being driven by elected officials who oppose marriage equality victories and now wish to score cheap political points because of it. Frankly, It’s a ham-handed solution in search of a non-existent problem.”

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