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House Committee approves bill to get state out of licensing marriages

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would end the requirement that marriages must be solemnized with some sort of a ceremony.

Senate Bill 69 is sponsored by state Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore.

Under Alabama law, marriages can only be between one man and one woman. The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated that in the 5-to-4 Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015.

Many Alabama probate judges have deep moral reservations about being a participant in the union of two men or two women, the bill’s proponents say.

Under SB69 probate judges will not have to perform such ceremonies or license anyone’s marriage. Instead, the probate judge’s office will simply record the marriage.

Albritton read scholarly opinions supporting his legislation.

“It seems to me this is not a big deal,” he said. “They are not changing marriage just creating a new process by which marriages get approved by the state.”

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“This has been here before,” Albritton said. “It has been vetted even internationally.”

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“It separates the Church and the state,” Albritton said.

“All the state needs to do is ensure that a marriage is legally formed,” Albritton added. “If you want to have a ceremony go to your pastor and have it in whatever form you want to do. This takes marriage out of the state purview.”

Albritton said that his bill keeps the same fees in place. The fees become recording fees rather than marriage license fees. It also keeps the same distribution of fees.

State Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook, said, “We were taking the politics out of it. All the state would have to do is issue the certificate.”

Sen. Albritton said, “This brings Alabama in conformity with federal law. The state law right now is not in conformity with Obergefell.”

Albritton said that his bill passed the Senate last year and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee but, “Y’all were busy down there and never got it to the floor.”

Albritton said that the new certificate would be developed by the Alabama Department of Publican Health like the current one licensing marriages.

State Rep. Jim Hill, R-Odenville, is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

During the public hearing, members of the marriage industry expressed concerns that without required ceremonies their business could be adversely impacted and that marriage itself would be damaged.

The Judiciary committee gave SB60 a favorable report. The bill now can be considered by the full House of Representatives. It has already passed the Senate.

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