New bill can end state-issued marriage licenses

The bill ends state-issued marriage licenses in Alabama and passed the state’s Senate on March 15. This bill would repeal the current procedure and instill a new system in which couples will 
complete forms recording their marriages.

For couples wishing to marry in Alabama, this bill would require their lawyers to handle the legalization of their marriage. The state would then record marriages instead of granting licenses.

Rep. Greg Albritton, the bill’s sponsor, told The Associated Press the bill would benefit couples, as the process of filing forms is easier than obtaining a marriage license.

Opponents of the bill argue that it is an unfair response to the recent legalization of same-sex marriage. If the state doesn’t grant marriage licenses, it’s no longer responsible for recognizing same-sex marriages. Birmingham judge Brian Huff said the bill is not an effort to streamline the marriage process, but an example of legalized bigotry.

“Why cause all these problems if the current system isn’t broken?” he told AL.com. “This bill exists for no reason other than to make it clear that the state legislature doesn’t agree with same-sex marriage.”

Engaged student Melia Cotter believes this bill would actually help calm controversy throughout the state. Cotter, a junior majoring in nursing, said this bill would take away the pressure to recognize same-sex marriages on government officials who oppose them and is a good way to handle the backlash since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

“I think the society we are a part of at this time is obviously having a huge battle over the definition of marriage,” she said. “Therefore, from my knowledge of the bill, I think overall it is a wise move ... in my eyes, a contract by the state doesn’t define my marriage.”

Kirk Walter, advisor for UA Spectrum and assistant director of the Office of Student Involvement, said he thinks the government has no business in people’s bedrooms in general, and the proposed direction of a legal contract is hypothetically ideal. However, he said he doesn’t think the bill is written in an entirely libertarian spirit.

“This is not too far upfield of a separate but equal kind of standard,” he said. “[Marriage] has been a state sponsored activity for so long, and now that it’s actually being opened up to loving couples of any sense, just to scale that back and have this kind of toddler tantrum about it is kind of pathetic.”

The bill also affects engaged students at the University who plan to marry in Alabama and relocate to another state. Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven Reed told AL.com problems could arise if a married couple doesn’t have a marriage license in another state.

The bill would make the marriage process more expensive, as couples need more help from attorneys, especially because the bill would also require the couple to make a prenuptial agreement. This kind of added financial stress may force engaged students to postpone their plans.

Emily Surratt, a senior majoring in nursing, said although she and her fiancé do not plan to marry in Alabama, she does not see why this bill would be necessary.

“I suppose if we were getting married here, we would have to go along with it, and would likely find it annoying that Alabama decided to do their own thing, and that our marriage may not be recognized legally in other states,” she said.

A version of this bill did not make it past the House of Representatives in 2015. Now, Albritton’s modified version is expected to be presented in committee in the House in the upcoming weeks.

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