Conservative Alabama lawmakers are now taking serious aim at marriage law, wasting no time since passing an extreme measure eliminating nearly all abortions in the state.
On Friday, the Alabama legislature sent a Republican-backed measure to the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey (R) that would aid officials who oppose same-sex marriage.
Under existing state law, couples are required to obtain a marriage license from a probate judge and hold a ceremony to “solemnize” the union. If Ivey signs the measure introduced by state Sen. Greg Albritton (R), the solemnization requirement would be eliminated and it would become the responsibility of couples themselves to record their own union.
Probate judges would simply be required to pass those records along to a state office and could not reject any marriage for which all paperwork is in order. That means judges who personally oppose same-sex marriages would be able to distance themselves from such unions.
In Alabama, some probate judges stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether after the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling because the judges did not want to be forced to issue licenses to same-sex couples. That has meant that some Alabama couples are required to travel to other counties to obtain a license.
The bill would allow “everybody in the state now to go to their local courthouse, or wherever” to adhere to the law for marriages “without traveling somewhere else,” Albritton told AL.com, a local news site.
But even as the measure would functionally eliminate barriers to marriage equality, Albritton referenced religious objections to same-sex unions in discussing his bill.
Under it, “a minister who has an objection to a particular marriage ceremony, they don’t have to do it,” he said.
Alabama’s political leadership is notoriously hostile to LGBTQ rights; the state’s public television station recently refused to air an episode of the children’s cartoon “Arthur” featuring a same-sex wedding.
Alabama Rep. Neil Rafferty (D), who is married to his same-sex partner, told AL.com he could not support Albritton’s measure because it was “born out of prejudice” against the LGBTQ community.
“That’s just kind of my ultimate feelings, why I ultimately couldn’t support the bill, even though in and of itself it does create a system that treats everyone equal before the state,” Rafferty said.
He added: “I think it’s far less about good governance and more about protecting folks that don’t want to do their jobs.”
The bill was propelled through the state House and Senate largely with Republican support, although some Democrats voted for it.