The bill removes the need for a license and a ceremony to solemnize the marriage. Instead probate judges, some of whom have refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, could accept affidavits from couples as official records of marriage.
The bill’s Republican sponsor, Sen. Greg Albritton, has proposed similar bills in the past, none of which made it into law. He said the change, if implemented, would allow for the proper separation of church and state.
“What this bill does is that it truly separates the church and the state,” Albritton said on the Senate floor. “The state has an obligation to deal with marriage when it deals with the matter of contract law. The church and individuals have the obligation of marriage when it comes to the sanctity and the solemnity and the permanence of marriage. Those things are separate here.”
The bill passed with a 19-1 vote, with the lone vote against coming from Sen. Phil Williams, who said he worried the law could dilute the meaning of marriage.
Albritton noted that the change would not affect opposite gender marriage.
“A ceremony should be held, I agree, and those ceremonies under this bill would continue to be held, and it would be held in accordance to the dictates of the individual’s religious convictions,” he said.
The bill now heads to the House.