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Alabama Lawmaker Wants to Eliminate All Marriage Licenses Rather Than Issue Them to Same-Sex Couples
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=36895"><span class="small">Casey Quinlan, ThinkProgress</span></a>   
Monday, 25 March 2019 08:36

Quinlan writes: "In response to probate judges refusing to issue marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage, a Republican lawmaker sponsored a bill to get rid of marriage licenses altogether."

Two women exchanging rings. (photo: Getty Images)
Two women exchanging rings. (photo: Getty Images)

Alabama Lawmaker Wants to Eliminate All Marriage Licenses Rather Than Issue Them to Same-Sex Couples

By Casey Quinlan, ThinkProgress

25 March 19

Probate judges say it gets them out of doing "something we totally disagree with."

n response to probate judges refusing to issue marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage, a Republican lawmaker sponsored a bill to get rid of marriage licenses altogether.

On Thursday, the Alabama Senate approved the bill. Organizations that advocate for the rights of LGBTQ people say that this legislative action is just a way for Alabama to shirk its full duty to same-sex couples who want to get married.

Sen. Greg Albritton (R) first filed this bill in 2015, according to the Montgomery Adviser. He has introduced such a bill every year since then. Should the bill pass, all couples wishing to get married will be required to submit affidavits or forms to a probate judge, whereupon that judge will record the marriage, provided the affidavits include all the required information. The couple would then be married without need for a ceremony.

Albritton claims that as many as 10 of 68 probate judges in the state stopped issuing marriage licenses. Last year, Probate Judge Nick Williams, told the American Bar Association Journal that he hadn’t issued marriage licenses or performed ceremonies in more than three years.

“It gets us out of the position of having to participate in something we totally disagree with,” Williams told the Journal.

Republicans had said they are interested in protecting judges who don’t want to appear as if they are approving of ceremonies between same-sex couples.

“A license is a granting of permission or authority for people to take actions. That’s the same thing with marriage licenses,” Albritton said during a floor debate this week.

He said he first got the idea from similar legislation actions in Oklahoma, where same-sex marriage had been legal since 2014. In March of 2015, the state legislature passed legislation that would put a stop to the issuing of marriage licenses. The legislation was intended to give an out to county clerks who did not want to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

Oklahoma state Rep. Todd Russ (R) said of county clerks who would no longer have to issue marriage licenses, “This takes them out of the trap.” The measure, however, did not ultimately pass.

Nick Morrow, press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, said Alabama lawmakers could make it easier to for same-sex couples to get married without taking this action.

“Alabama’s been one of the toughest states when it comes to access to marriage equality because of its marriage code and because the way it’s written for judges to choose to issue licenses or not,” Morrow told ThinkProgress in an email. “In many counties, Alabamians did not have equal access to marriage. That’s wrong. Lawmakers in Alabama should be making it easier for all Alabamians to access the benefits of marriage, not more difficult.”

Alabama law specifically says that a probate judge “may” issue marriage licenses. In February 2015, U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and required probate judges to issue marriage licenses. The next month, the state’s then-Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) ordered a halt to same-sex marriages. After his order, many probate offices stopped issuing licenses altogether. Moore was then suspended without pay for the rest of his term.

His actions had consequences on same-sex couples. According to Birmingham Real Time News, which analyzed Alabama Center for Health Statistics data, 577 same-sex couples were married in February 2015 but only 155 same-sex couples got married in March, April, May, and June combined. In July of 2015, same-sex marriages rose again and 163 couples married.

In addition to legislation eliminating marriage licenses, states across the country have made it difficult to recognize married same-sex parents and various benefits for same-sex couples.

According to a 2018 Movement Advancement Project report, a lower court in Mississippi refused to award parental rights in a divorce case to the mother who did not give birth to her child. Arkansas would not put both spouses on a birth certificate until it was forced to in 2017 by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Texas Supreme Court overturned a decision that would have allowed same-sex couples in Houston to enjoy the same employment benefits as city employees as a married man and woman. Many states still enjoy broad religious exemption laws that allow businesses, nonprofits, and individuals refer to their religious beliefs when they don’t wish to comply with a law.

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+8 # chrisconno 2019-03-25 11:14
Alabama sure takes the cake for hypocritical ugliness, ignorance and white supremacy. Where does it state in the bible that followers of Jesus can be mean and unreasonable in forcing others to be just like they want them to be,
+3 # economagic 2019-03-25 14:35
+7 # economagic 2019-03-25 14:38
"Probate judges say it gets them out of doing 'something we totally disagree with.'"

Tough beans. I "totally disagree with" almost everything that almost every Alabama politician says, but that doesn't mean I get to evict Alabama from the Union (or even just its politicians).
+3 # jwb110 2019-03-25 18:07
If the SCOTUS would require full faith and credit to these marriages in in the same way they apply to conventional marriages, then none of this would be going on. Leaving it a state by state decision as to wether this acceptable to their "beliefs" or not smacks of when it was illegal for marriage between races. That clearly hasn't been so long ago for Alabama and Oklahoma. The next step for those who are disenfranchised and receive no full faith and credit would be a Federal Marriage License that would guarantee that all citizens get equal treatment under the law.
+4 # lfeuille 2019-03-25 19:19
How can they be so proud of being so stupid?
+4 # economagic 2019-03-26 18:30
Because they're stupid. John Cleese spelled this out in simple but convincing detail on YouTube a couple of years ago. ;-)
+3 # Maturus 2019-03-26 06:16
Following this logic, it will be acceptable for a judge to refuse mixed-race marriages if it is "something we totally disagree with". How about if one of the couple is an [Hispanic] immigrant? Or a registered Democrat?
+1 # Questioner 2019-03-26 21:44
Why is it necessary for government to issue licences for getting married anyway? Why should there be special benefits for people who are married or otherwise legally together?