Alabama lawmakers unanimously voted to stop issuing marriage licenses so gay couples can’t get one

Two women getting married
Photo: Shutterstock

The Alabama senate just unanimously voted for a bill that would get rid of marriage licenses because some judges in the state don’t want to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

If the bill is signed into law, Alabama would be the only state where a marriage license would not generally be required to get married.

Instead, couples would get a form to fill out from the state and present that form or an affidavit to a probate judge, who would then record the marriage.

Proponents of the bill say that that’s different because the state is no longer giving permission to the couple to get married, it’s just recording a marriage that happened completely separate from the state.

“A license is a granting of permission or authority for people to take actions,” said Alabama senator Greg Albritton (R), who sponsored the bill. “That’s the same thing with marriage licenses.”

Related: A student was suspended from school in Alabama because she asked her girlfriend to prom

The bill “takes the state out of granting permission, saying who can marry or who can’t.”

Alabama has had a problem with judges refusing to follow the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In the wake of the decision, Roy Moore, who was the chief justice of the Alabama supreme court, told state judges to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples calling the Supreme Court decision illegitimate. He eventually lost his job for this.

One-third of counties either refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or stopped issuing the licenses at all in the wake of the decision.

Today, Albritton said that he knows of at least seven judges who have stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether in Alabama and three others may have stopped as well. There are 68 probate judges who can issue marriage licenses in the state.

He said that his bill is an attempt at a “compromise.”

A couple getting married in Alabama must get a license less than thirty days before their wedding. The license ensures that people getting married meet the state’s requirements for marriage – that they’re over the age of 18, that they aren’t married to anyone else, and that both say that they consent to the marriage since both have to be present.

The bill has passed in the state senate several times over the past few years, but it has not yet been signed into law.

In 2009, a judge in Louisiana refused to provide a marriage license to an interracial couple. State officials from both parties pressured him to resign, which he did several weeks later.

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