Alabama Could End Marriage Licenses to Protect Judges’ Consciences

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 24, 2018   

If passed, bill would relieve Christian judges of same-sex marriage dilemma

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Alabama State Senate approved a bill last week calling for an end to marriage licenses, in an effort to protect the rights of judges who disagree with same-sex "marriage."

The bill, if written into law, would require couples to submit marriage paperwork to a probate judge, who can approve the form and put the marriage on record.

If the bill becomes law, probate judges will only have to "record" marriages, not sign off on them. Thus, judges opposed to same-sex marriage will not have to sign off in approval of the relationship, but simply record that the relationship exists and is considered a marriage according to the law.

The bill passed the State Senate 19–1 and appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. If approved, it would go up for a vote in the House next week.

The state of Alabama, like much of the southern United States, is known for being politically conservative. Since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex "marriage" in 2015 with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, some judges in the state have refused to sign off on same-sex marriages, while others have removed themselves from marriage licenses entirely.

What this bill does is that it truly separates the church and the state.

The sponsor of the bill is Greg Albritton, a senator from Conecuh County. He explained how the bill, if it becomes law, will require Alabama judges to put all legal marriages, even same-sex marriages, into the records. He said, "It requires that the form, that's presented to be recorded, must be accepted."

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Greg Albritton serves on the Alabama Senate

Albritton explained the mindset underlying the bill during debate last week:

What this bill does is that it truly separates the church and the state. The state has an obligation to deal with marriage when it deals with the matter of contract law. The church and individuals have the obligation of marriage when it comes to the sanctity and the solemnity and the permanence of marriage. Those things are separate here.

The bill also stipulates that a marriage ceremony will no longer be necessary in the eyes of the state of Alabama; all that will be needed is the submission of paperwork.

There was some concern this aspect of the bill would rob marriage of its religious elements since it removes the need for a ceremony. Albritton responded to these concerns, telling the Alabama Political Reporter, "A ceremony should be held, I agree, and those ceremonies under this bill would continue to be held, and it would be held in accordance to the dictates of the individual's religious convictions."

Albritton has introduced similar legislation on a few occasions since the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex "marriage" the law of the land.

Roy Moore, former chief justice in the Alabama Supreme Court, essentially ignored the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges and encouraged judges beneath him to do the same.

Moore ran for U.S. Senate in 2017 as a Republican. A firebrand conservative, he had the backing of Steve Bannon, the former White House chief of staff. Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones after several women publicly accused Moore of sexual harassment.

After Moore lost a special election in the staunchly Republican state, the Alabama Senate voted Tuesday to end special elections for the state's seats in the U.S. Senate. Currently, when a seat becomes empty, the governor establishes a temporary appointee till a special election finds a replacement. If the bill goes into law, the governer's temporary appointee remains until the next normal election year for the seat.

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