A bill that would get rid of marriage licenses in Alabama has passed in the state Senate.
Only three senators opposed Alabama Senate Bill 377, which seeks to replace licenses with a contract process that would not require a probate judge's approval, reports AL.com, a website for several Alabama newspapers. Twenty-two senators voted in favor of the bill May 19.
If the proposed legislation, now pending in the state House of Representatives, goes into effect, the signature of a notary, attorney, or member of the clergy as well as two witnesses would allow two adults to receive a marriage contract. This contract would then be processed by a probate judge's office.
The move follows a period of legal uncertainty that began in January, when a federal court ruled the state must grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Shortly thereafter, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore issued a directive telling probate judges they could ignore the federal ruling.
As a result, many probate judges refused to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples during this time, forcing them to travel to other areas of the state to wed under pro-gay judges. Then in March the full state Supreme Court halted the issuance of licenses to same-sex couples altogether.
"Right now, Alabama is in a chaotic state as far as marriage is concerned," said Sen. Greg Albritton, a sponsor of SB 377. "You have a federal court that has ruled one way [in terms of same-sex marriage] and a state court that has ruled in another way."
Opponents of the bill say the new system of contracts would cause more confusion, particularly for military personnel.
Two days after the Senate approved the bill, U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade, who made the original marriage equality ruling, ordered the state to obey all federal rulings on the matter, although her order is on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on marriage equality this summer.