The Alabama Senate passed a revived version of a bill on Tuesday with a 23 to 3 vote that would end marriage licensing in the state in an effort to resolve ongoing disputes over same-sex marriage.
If SB143 were to become law, couples would no longer have to seek permission to marry from a probate office and would instead file their own contracts with the state.
The contract process does include some limitations. The Tenth Amendment Center’s Mike Maharrey wrote, describing the limits on who would be able to file a marriage contract, “Minors between the ages of 16 and 18 would have to obtain parental permission before marrying, the state would not record a marriage if either party was already married and the parties could not be related by blood or adoption as already stipulated in state law. Under SB143, the state would record same-sex marriages.”
Currently, Alabama state law does not force probate judges to sign off on every marriage, and following the Supreme Court ruling Obergefell v. Hodges which found state-level bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, some officials have been refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, claiming that to do so conflicts with religious beliefs.
Bill sponsor Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Range) told WSFA-TV, “The left says well fine let them resign or force them to do it over their own objections. This bill fixes that problem.”
He added, “Marriage in our state has changed. We now are required to allow that to occur so our laws have changed now. We need to bring our law in compliance with that.”
According to ABC News, bill opponent Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), Alabama’s only openly-gay legislator, said the bill is unnecessary and that probate judges need to “do their job.”
Reason notes that the most recent attempt to pass the bill, which took place last September, failed despite a majority of legislators in both houses voting in favor because the bill was introduced under unusual circumstances during a special budgeting session which requires a two-thirds vote instead of a majority.
Sen. Albritton says that valid Alabama marriage contracts would work the same as marriage licenses in terms of how taxes, disputes, and other legal issues are handled.
Upon passing the Senate, the bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.