A bill to abolish marriage licenses in Alabama and replace them with contracts died Tuesday night after it didn't get enough votes in the sourthern state's House of Representatives.
The bill, which was designed to address the concerns of some probate judges about issuing licenses to same-sex couples, won a simple majority of votes in the House, 53-36, but not the required two-thirds majority, reports AL.com, a site for several Alabama newspapers. The two-thirds majority was required because the bill was not included in the governor's call for the current special legislative session. Gov. Robert Bentley convened the session to deal with a budget shortfall.
County probate judges are responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Alabama. The bill would have changed state law so that the judges would not issue licenses but merely record a contract signed by the two people marrying, in the same way that judges record deeds.
More than half a dozen probate judges, out of the state's 67 counties, have resisted issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples since the U.S. Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling in June. One of them, Nick Williams of Washington County, has even asked the state Supreme Court for permission to abstain from signing marriage licenses for same-sex couples, as he calls the documents "a license to engage in sodomy."
Some members of the legislature, however, believed changing the procedure would probably not satisfy judges who are opposed to marriage equality. "What is the difference between handing me a piece of paper for a license versus accepting a piece of paper from me for a marriage contract?" said Rep. Patricia Todd, the first openly gay Alabama legislator, according to AL.com.