Alabama senator wants state out of marriage license business

By : Wire Report
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A state senator who wants to take Alabama out of the marriage license business says he’s not targeting same-sex couples but trying to remove government from the process.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on April 29 approved a bill by Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, that would do away with current state marriage licenses issued by probate judges. Instead, couples would take a contract witnessed by a couple’s pastor, attorney or other witness and record the document at the court.

Albritton said he was not targeting same-sex marriages, but was trying to “bring order out of chaos.” The legislation comes after a legal dispute over gay marriage led to some probate courts shutting down in Alabama and ahead of a highly anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision that could legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.

“When you invite the state into those matters of personal or religious import, it creates difficulties,” Albritton said.

“Go back long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. 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,” Albritton said.

Lawyer Eric Johnston, who signed up to speak at a public hearing that was cancelled on the bill, said the change would prevent probate judges from having to issue marriage licenses that go against their religious beliefs if gay marriage becomes legal.

Albritton said his bill is based off of Oklahoma legislation.

Alabama went through a turbulent period after a federal judge in January struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage. Most probate judges began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, but others did not citing a conflicting directive from Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore to continue to refuse the licenses.

The weddings halted in March when the Alabama Supreme Court directed probate judges to not issue the marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Alabama’s only openly gay legislator said she “actually liked” Albritton’s idea.

“It sort of takes the marriage decision out of the probate court,” said state Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham. Todd is also the director of the Human Rights Campaign Alabama, an organization that works for gay and lesbian rights.

However, Todd said she scoffed at the notion that the bill wasn’t about gay couples or same-sex marriage.

“Come on. Why did you do this now?” Todd said.

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