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Alabama Senate passes bill to get the state out of the marriage business

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Senate on Wednesday passed a bill to get the state out of the marriage business. The legislation would abolish all requirements to obtain a marriage license in Alabama. Instead, probate judges would simply record civil contracts of marriage between two individuals based on signed affidavits.

Senate Bill 143 was introduced in February by Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Bay Minette). The bill reads “All requirements to obtain a marriage license by the State of Alabama are hereby abolished and repealed. The requirement of a ceremony of marriage to solemnize the marriage is abolished.”

The proposed law would maintain a few state requirements governing marriage. Minors between the ages of 16 and 18 would have to obtain parental permission before marrying, the state would not record a marriage if either party was already married and the parties could not be related by blood or adoption, as already stipulated in state law. Under SB143, the state would record same-sex marriages.

Civil or religious ceremonies would have no legal effect upon the validity of the marriage. The state would only recognize the legal contract signed by the two parties entering into the marriage.

Essentially, the state’s role in marriage would be limited to recording marriages that have already occurred.

“Licenses are used as a way to stop people from doing things,” said Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center. “My personal relationship should not be subject to government permission.”

Sen. Albritton told the Associated Press the intent of the bill was to remove the state from an issue it should have never involved itself with in the first place.

“When you invite the state into those matters of personal or religious import, it creates difficulties,” he said. “Early twentieth century, if you go back and look and try to find marriage licenses for your grandparents or great grandparents, you won’t find it. What you will find instead is where people have come in and recorded when a marriage has occurred.”

The dispute over marriage licensing emerged after the U.S. Supreme Court held that state prohibitions on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional under the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The bill now goes to the House, where it must be approved to go to Governor Bentley’s desk for his signature.

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