How an Attempt to Kill Civil Marriage Died in Alabama

Alabama faced a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” situation last month. From the Associated Press on 4 August:

A state Senate committee has approved a bill to take Alabama probate judges out of the wedding license business following the U.S Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage.

The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee on Monday approved the bill to do away with state-issued marriage licenses. Instead, spouses would file a signed marriage contract at probate offices.

Several Alabama probate judges have shut down marriage license operations rather than give licenses to same-sex couples.

Sen. Greg Albritton, the bill’s sponsor, says the bill could be a solution to lingering disputes over gay marriage.

The bill passed the State Senate last week (a lopsided 26-2) and went to the House. Yesterday, via Associated Press:

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday voted for a bill to do away with state-issued marriage licenses. Instead, couples would bring in a signed marriage contract and file it with the probate office.

[…]

Senators passed the bill last week.

Legislators could approve the bill this week. However, it requires a two-thirds vote to pass because it’s outside the governor’s call for the special session focused on budget measures.

Last night, it died. From Alabama.com:

The House voted 53-36 in favor of the bill. But it required a two-thirds vote for approval because it was not part of the governor’s call for the special session.

Rep. Jim Hill, R-Odenville, who sponsored the bill in the House, said the intent was to address some problems that have arisen since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, with some probate judges deciding not to issue marriage licenses at all.

“This would not require them to issue the marriage license but would allow the individuals to sign the contract and record it in the probate court just as you record a deed with the probate court,” Hill said.

Hill said current law says that probate judges “may” issue licenses, but that the bill would have changed the law to say probate judges “shall” record the marriage contracts. He said that would clarify what the law requires.

Quote from Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham (and first openly LGBT member): “What is the difference between handing me a piece of paper for a license vs. accepting a piece of paper from me for a marriage contract?”

NOTE: TIL through a Facebook post that Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina tried to abolish public schools altogether in 1954-55 in response to Brown v. Board of Education. Apparently, this “let’s privatize it to not equalize it” sentiment has an ignoble history, and segues into the modern “school choice” movement.

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