Alabama Senate passes bill to abolish marriage licence amid judges' opposition to same-sex marriages

A couple displaying their marriage licence react after receiving flowers as they leave Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama, in this file photo taken Feb. 9, 2015.Reuters

Alabama senators have passed a bill abolishing marriage licence altogether throughout the state following opposition from many state judges on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June 2015 legalising same-sex marriages throughout America.

Voting 23-3, the Alabama Senate passed SB 143 that mandates "all requirements to obtain a marriage license by the State of Alabama are hereby abolished and repealed.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 solemnise the marriage is abolished."

Instead of a marriage licence, couples who want to marry only need to submit affidavits, forms and data for recording by a probate judge.

"The recording of the affidavits, forms, and data establishes legal recognition of the marriage as of the date the marriage was entered into by the two parties. Each marriage filed with the probate office shall be filed and registered with the Office of Vital Statistics," the bill reads.

Bill sponsor Republican state Senator Greg Albritton told the New York Times that "Kentucky is a precursor to where we are headed," referring to the controversy where Rowan County clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licence to same-sex couples because of her religious beliefs.

"A lot of controversy over who should and who could [get married]. The religious liberty comes to play there. This bill removes that simply because it's not statutory to have a ceremony," he said.

Col. John Eidsmoe of the Foundation for Moral Law (FML), an Alabama conservative group, partly agrees with the bill in so far as abolishing the marriage licence is concerned.

"I see no reason the State needs to be in the business of issuing marriage licences. A licence is a grant of permission, and we do not need the State's 'permission' to exercise a God-given right such as the right to marry," he said, according to Life Site News.

However, he faults the bill for acknowledging same-sex marriage. "Two persons desiring to unite in marriage may do so by submitting the forms," Eidsmoe quoted the text of the bill.

He explained that "this implies that people do not become married until they submit these documents to the State." He said this is wrong. "When a man and a woman stand before God in a wedding ceremony and say 'I do' and are pronounced 'man and wife' by the pastor, they are at that moment married. By accepting the paperwork, the State simply acknowledges what is already an established fact."

Eidsmoe also objects to the bill's recognition of out-of-state marriage.

The bill says the probate judge will record out-of-state marriages, which shall be the "prima facie evidence of the validity of the out-of-state marriage."

"This requires the probate judge to commit an act (recording) that establishes the validity of a marriage that said judge may believe is invalid," he said.

"Senator Albritton's bill is a step in the right direction, and with a few changes it could go a long way toward solving the moral dilemma of those who sincerely oppose same-sex marriage," Eidsmoe said.

Other conservative groups have different opinions on government's involvement in marriage.

Rev. Patrick Henry Reardon of Chicago's All Saints Church said he has stopped "acting as an agent for the State of Illinois" by no longer signing marriage licences.

Rev. Johannes Jacobse of the American Orthodox Institute said the government should only recognise and encourage natural marriage.

"Marriage is not a creation of the state. Marriage pre-exists the rise of the State. So when the State recognises marriage it merely legally ratifies that which already exists," he said.