By State Sen. Greg Albritton
Like most Alabamians, I believe that God established the institution of marriage for the benefit of mankind. Indeed, His purpose was to begin the human family within His bonds of marriage, as a holy union.
Then government stole marriage, for its own purposes.
A classic example is Henry VIII, who established his own church in order to achieve the destruction of his marriage. Henry is not the only example of government overreach into marriage. Throughout history, the government has used marriage as a tool to effect its ends, to protect government power, to maintain control of property and estates, and even to keep a “pure” race. In 2015, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage at the federal level with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision.
Here in Alabama, the present codification of the marriage process, which came into effect in the 1920s, requires that every couple must receive a state-authorized license to be married. Additionally, that license must be presented to an authorized “minister of the gospel” so a “solemnization” may be accomplished. Afterwards, this form is filed at the local courthouse, which establishes the marriage as recognized by the state.
Obviously, the state is heavily engaged in a religious sacrament of the church. It is no surprise that judges are confused about the line between government activities and church ceremonies. “Ministers of the gospel” may be just as confused when they pronounce a couple husband and wife “by the authority granted by the State of Alabama.”
In the Alabama Senate, I have filed legislation (Senate Bill 13) that clarifies and separates these very different roles by simplifying the procedure. The requirement of a state license is eliminated. No longer does a couple need permission or a license from any government official to marry. However, my bill does not in any way change the definition of marriage: the protections of competency and age and the restrictions against incest, polygamy, and bigamy remain intact. Under SB13, a couple that has married must openly and legally state by an affidavit that they are complying with state’s definition of marriage.
Further, the statutory requirement of a religious ceremony is eliminated. My bill allows ceremonies to take place – but the ceremony is not controlled by the government. This allows people to enter into religious ceremonial marriages, according to the dictates of their faith, without the State of Alabama overseeing the sacrament.
The procedure of recording a marriage remains intact. My bill requires a government form to be recorded in the local probate office, which establishes that the marriage is recognized by the state, just as the present system does.
There have been a number of misunderstandings over what my legislation does. So, let me clarify a few specific things that this bill does not do. Senate Bill 13 does not eliminate marriage as an institution recognized by the State of Alabama or any other government entity. Under my legislation, the new, prepared form states “Marriage Certificate.” Further, my bill does not redefine marriage and does not increase any costs or fees.
Senate Bill 13 opens every county to marriage; no public official can deny a properly-completed form. My proposal continues to restrict marriage to two people who are of legal age, mentally competent, and unrelated, just like now. Most importantly, SB13 allows all persons of faith to practice their religious ceremonies of marriage according to their faith and doctrine and removes the government from a religious sacrament.
My proposal has already passed the State Senate, and I urge the Alabama House of Representatives to approve SB13 and send to Governor Kay Ivey for her signature. Alabama has the opportunity to be the first state in the union to resolve the tensions brought on by the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage, but we must act now.
Senator Greg Albritton represents Senate District 22, which is comprised of all or parts of Choctaw, Clarke, Washington, Monroe, Mobile, Conecuh, Escambia, and Baldwin counties, in the Alabama Senate. You may reach him at [email protected] or at (334) 242-7843.