Tag Archives: Marriage Licensing

Alabama Senate Revives, Passes Bill to Abolish Marriage Licensing

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.

[RELATED: DONEGAN: Kim Davis Shows Why County Clerks Should Not Be Involved in Approving Marriages]

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.

[RELATED: TX State Rep. Calls for Special Session to “Divorce Marriage from Government”]

Truth in Media reported last year on a previous effort to pass the bill which failed.

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.

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DONEGAN: Kim Davis Shows Why County Clerks Should Not Be Involved in Approving Marriages

Earlier this year, Truth in Media reported on an Alabama bill that, if it had passed, would have abolished marriage licensing in the state and replaced the system with a contract process. The purpose behind the bill was to remove probate judges (who have a role in approving Alabama marriages similar to that of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in Kentucky) from the marriage licensing business in advance of what was expected to be a Supreme Court decision that would legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.

Earlier this year in Alabama, some local probate judges had been threatening to discontinue the issuance of marriage licenses in the event of a federal court ruling requiring states to provide for same-sex marriage. Alabama’s marriage licensing abolition bill would have prevented a Kim Davis style shutdown of marriages in rural counties and would have allowed those local officials who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds to stay out of the process. It also would have allowed same-sex couples to certify their marriages without having to engage in county-by-county legal battles.

[RELATED: Huckabee Campaign Blocks Cruz From Media At Kim Davis Rally]

However, opponents claimed that the bill was premature and unnecessary, and politicians voted against it, kicking the can down the road. Now, months later, following the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of same-sex marriage in the case Obergefell v. Hodges, some Alabama probate judges are, as predicted, refusing to issue marriage licenses, and Americans nationwide are forced once again to debate the otherwise-settled same-sex marriage issue again and again as more and more local officials follow Kim Davis’ lead and use the authority that states and counties have given them to deny Americans’ legitimate rights to free association.

The Alabama bill would have allowed couples to have a notary or attorney sign off on their marriage instead of an elected official or appointed government bureaucrat, taking politics out of the matter entirely. It also included some provisions preventing a slippery slope beyond same-sex marriage, such as a prohibition on still-married people marrying a second time.

Marriage licensing as a concept was not created to make marriage easier for couples. The primary purpose of any licensing system is to prevent non-licensed individuals from doing a particular activity.

When adults who are not immediate blood relatives voluntarily decide to marry one another, who could possibly be the victim? What interest does the state have in preventing consensual marriage between adults? What is the worst that could happen if we were to let free people decide who they should marry and take away government bureaucrats’ power to deny marriages on the basis of their personal biases?

For a glimpse as to what life without marriage licensing might be like, all we have to do is look to recent history, as marriage licensing is itself a fairly new concept in the U.S. As Ben Swann notes in the below-embedded CBS46 Atlanta Reality Check video, nationwide, universal marriage licensing began in the U.S. in the 1920s and was primarily established to consolidate abhorrent state-level licensing schemes that had originally been put in place to prevent interracial marriage (prior to a 1967 Supreme Court ruling in the case Loving v. Virginia that found all anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional).


Considering marriage licensing’s troubling history and its conflict-laden, complicated present, maybe it is time to face the reality that empowering county-level government officials like Kim Davis to deny marriages based on personal biases is a policy that does not serve the public’s interest nor protect individual rights.

States should begin passing bills to get officials like county clerks and judges out of the marriage licensing business before countless Kim Davis types of conflicts begin gumming up court systems across the U.S.

TX State Rep. Calls for Special Session to “Divorce Marriage from Government”

On Monday, Republican Texas State Representative and State Senate candidate David Simpson issued a news release calling on Governor Greg Abbott to convene a special session of the Texas Legislature to consider a bill that would get government officials out of the marriage licensing business following Friday’s landmark Supreme Court case legalizing same-sex marriage.

In light of the Supreme Court’s actions, I believe that the best way to protect marriage is to divorce marriage from government. I am asking the governor to recall the legislature so that legislation may be immediately considered to remove state and local officials from the process of issuing marriage licenses. In its place, the process of issuing a certificate of marriage will be performed by any willing clergy member consistent with their conscience and in respect for our culture and our heritage. For those who do not wish to have a religious ceremony, any authorized notary may approve a certificate,” said Representative Simpson.

[RELATED: Alabama House Rejects Bill to Abolish Marriage Licensing]

Representative Simpson’s call for a special session comes on the heels of a Sunday statement by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that appeared to encourage county clerks and judges who oppose same-sex marriage to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. “County clerks and their employees retain religious freedoms that may provide accommodation of their religious objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Justices of the peace and judges also may claim that the government forcing them to conduct same sex wedding ceremonies over their religious objections, particularly when other authorized individuals have no objection to conducting such ceremonies, is not the least restrictive means of furthering any compelling governmental interest in ensuring that such ceremonies occur,” said Paxton in a legal opinion statement.

USA Today points out the fact that Paxton clarified, “It is important to note that any clerk who wishes to defend their religious objections and who chooses not to issue licenses may well face litigation and/or a fine. But, numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs, in many cases on a pro-bono basis, and I will do everything I can from this office to be a public voice for those standing in defense of their rights.

Representative Simpson’s statement on abolishing marriage licensing implied that he is opposed to same-sex marriage. “I cannot and I will not sit idly by while unelected judges redefine the sacred institution of marriage and force our county and state officials to violate their most cherished beliefs. Marriage is a divinely instituted tradition as old as humanity. Government marriage is just another government program and a modern failure. Government has cheapened it, redefined it, and parceled it out for profit. As a Christian, I call on every Texan to reject this aberration and contact the governor to take swift action to end it,” said Simpson.

However, considering the fact that Texas lawmakers appear to be actively protecting county clerks and judges who refuse to perform same-sex marriages, Simpson’s legislative push to abolish marriage licensing could solve that problem by removing those officials from the process entirely, allowing same-sex couples to have their marriages certified instead by a notary.

Alabama House Rejects Bill to Abolish Marriage Licensing

On June 4, Alabama’s House Judiciary Committee voted 8-3 against a bill, which had previously prevailed in the Alabama Senate, that would have abolished marriage licensing in the state and replaced it with a contract process. The proposal, which had been introduced by State Senator Greg Albritton (R-Range), was aimed at removing probate judges from the marriage licensing process in light of the fact that some of them had arbitrarily refused to sign off on same-sex marriages during a brief period earlier this year when the practice became legal following a January federal court ruling. Under the bill, couples looking to marry would no longer have had to ask a government official for permission.

Though an Alabama Supreme Court injunction had temporarily halted same-sex marriages in Alabama after January’s federal court ruling, Senator Albritton introduced the proposal to abandon marriage licenses in the interim in an effort to get out in front of a potential Supreme Court decision that might re-start the practice in the state. As it happens, that ruling came down on Friday, as the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 US states.

However, as The Mongtomery Advertiser points out, since Senator Albritton’s bill failed, probate judges still have the de facto authority to choose who can marry and some will likely refuse to sign off on same-sex marriages in the wake of Friday’s Supreme Court decision.

Critics of Senator Albritton’s bill called it premature, as, at the time, the Supreme Court had not yet ruled on same-sex marriage. Now that it has and Albritton’s bill has failed, couples attempting to have their same-sex marriages certified by the state may face a chaotic situation in which probate judges in various counties refuse to do so altogether.

If I’m premature, blame me for trying to do right a little early,” said Senator Albritton earlier this month, defending his then-ahead-of-the-times effort to prevent the combination of Friday’s Supreme Court ruling and probate judges’ refusals to sign off on same-sex marriages from plunging the state’s marriage licensing system into disarray.

Had Albritton’s bill passed, same-sex couples could have certified their marriage contracts with a signature by a notary public, clergy member, or attorney, rather than by seeking the approval of a probate judge who may be unwilling to certify their union.

According to The Wall Street Journal‘s law blog, ACLU of Alabama executive director Susan Watson said that four probate judges in the state are currently not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and eight others have stopped issuing marriage licenses at all in the wake of Friday’s Supreme Court decision.

Alabama Senate Approves Bill to Abolish Marriage Licensing

Truth In Media recently reported on Alabama Senate Bill 377, a legislative proposal aimed at solving an internal dispute over same-sex marriage. On May 19, the bill, which would end marriage licensing in the state and replace it with a contract process, passed the Alabama Senate with 22 voting in favor and 3 voting in opposition.

In January of this year, a federal court legalized same-sex marriage in Alabama, temporarily allowing some couples to marry before the Alabama Supreme Court issued an injunction, halting the practice. During the period of time in which same-sex marriages were allowed in the state, some local probate judges were refusing to sign off on same-sex licenses, effectively nullifying some couples’ right to marry.

In an effort to resolve the issue in advance of a potential future in which same-sex marriages may be declared legal once again, Senate Bill 377 would remove the requirement that couples obtain a license from a probate judge and replace it instead with a contract process requiring only a signature by a notary public, clergy member, or attorney. The bill would only allow two adult parties to join in marriage and would prohibit currently-married people from marrying a second time.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center’s blog, bill sponsor State Senator Greg Albritton (R-Range) said, “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.” Senator Albritton wants to abandon the state’s recent experiment in marriage licensing and instead return to the older system where couples choose who they want to marry without government approval.

The Tenth Amendment Center’s Michael Boldin said in support of the bill, “Licenses are used as a way to stop people from doing things… My personal relationship should not be subject to government permission.”

“The intent or motives behind this bill are a moot point. By removing the state from the equation, no one can force another to accept their marriage, nor can they force another to reject that person’s own beliefs regarding an institution older than government,” wrote Shane Trejo for the Tenth Amendment Center.

Now that Senate Bill 377 has passed through the Alabama Senate, it moves on to the state’s House Judiciary Committee, where it will seek approval for a full vote before the Alabama House of Representatives.


UPDATE: Alabama House Rejects Bill to Abolish Marriage Licensing

Alabama Legislature Considers Bill That Would Abolish Marriage Licensing

Last Wednesday, Alabama Senate Bill 377 cleared the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill, sponsored by State Senator Greg Albritton (R-Range), would eliminate a requirement that marrying couples obtain a license from a probate judge in order to marry, replacing it instead with a marriage contract that, according to Decatur Daily, would require a signature from a notary public, clergy member, or attorney. The legislation is now eligible for a full vote by the Alabama Senate.

“The sanctity of marriage cannot be sanctified by government of men. That is where we have gotten ourselves in trouble,” said Senator Albritton to AL.com. “The purpose of Senate Bill 377 is to bring order out of chaos.”

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, same-sex marriage was temporarily legalized in the state earlier this year when a federal judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages in January. In March, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered a halt to the issuance of same-sex marriage licences. During the time in which same-sex marriage was temporary legal, some couples obtained licenses while some probate judges indicated that they would stop issuing marriage licenses at all in response, setting up a chaotic dispute.

Senator Albritton’s bill, modeled off of similar legislation that was recently passed by Oklahoma’s House of Representatives, would take away the ability of probate judges to deny same-sex couples the ability to marry in the event that same-sex marriage becomes legal again in the future when the federal and state courts resolve their dispute. “If the law should change in another couple of months or stand, the procedure is the same,” said Albritton. “People go to get married and they can’t get a license in some cases… The courts created a problem in the system, and I’m trying to resolve it in the easiest and simplest way.”