Senators in Alabama recently filed a bill that would abolish the issuance of marriage licenses. In its place, couples who want to get married could simply submit affidavits in court to attest their eligibility in exchange for a contract or certificate.
Republican Sen. Greg Albritton sponsored Senate Bill 13 that aims to abolish marriage licenses and would also eliminate marriage ceremonies. The move is in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of gay marriage in 2015.
Some judges in Alabama, who firmly believe that a marriage should be between a man and woman, have been skirting the legalities of issuing a license since gay marriage became legal. These judges have apparently stopped issuing the said document and have also ceased the operations of its marriage license division.
Alabama judge Wes Allen told NPR that he could not affix his signature on marriage licenses for same-sex unions since he does not believe in them. He and the others expect to be sued because of their decision to close down the marriage license division in their courts but no one has complained, so far. As NPR explained, perhaps this was because Alabama's marriage laws say that "judges may issue marriage licenses, not shall."
Albritton now wants a bill that would stop the issuance of marriage licenses for good so that judges would not be discredited and would not have to skirt around this problem and struggle with a decision based on their beliefs. He clarified in an op-Ed piece that the bill would not restrict gay marriages, but it "removes the government from a religious sacrament."
If the bill is signed into a law, couples wishing to marry could simply file a sworn statement that they are willing and eligible to marry. A judge would then just have to record these statements and provide a certificate of marriage.
Senators who oppose the bill, however, implied that the move would degrade marriage as a sacred institution.
"When you take marriage and you reduce it to a mere contract, it's almost like you're just doing nothing more than recording the deed to your property at the courthouse," Republican Senator Phil Williams told NPR. "You're just taking the contract down there and the probate judge is just the clerk."