Even though major homophobe Roy Moore is off the state Supreme Court, same-sex marriage remains controversial in Alabama, to the point that lawmakers are trying to eliminate marriage licenses altogether. The effort has already passed the state Senate and is now headed to the Republican-controlled House.
Under a bill approved 26-0 by the Alabama Senate last month, couples who want to marry would obtain and fill out a form at their county courthouse, but it would not be called a marriage license, the Associated Press reports. Probate judges, the county officials who have traditionally granted licenses, would simply record the form rather than issue a license.
The bill, approved by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, now goes to the full House of Representatives. The legislation is an accommodation to conservative probate judges, some of whom have ceased issuing marriage licenses to any couples in order to avoid approving them for same-sex couples.
Republican Sen. Greg Albritton, the measure's chief sponsor, has put it forth in several sessions since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 marriage equality ruling. The Senate has passed it previously, but it has always died in the House. Albritton expressed optimism that the House will pass it this year. He said it will get the state out of people's private lives and assure that same-sex couples won't face discrimination. Some House members have wondered if the elimination of marriage licenses would create problems for couples applying for federal benefits, but Albritton has said it would not.
When Moore was chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he argued that the state did not have to obey federal court rulings for marriage equality -- first one by a district court judge and then the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling. He ended up being removed from the court for ethics violations related to his attempts to block marriage equality, and he made a failed run for U.S. Senate in 2017 in a race marked by allegations that he had engaged in sexual misconduct with teenage girls.
While Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, made headlines for shutting down all marriage license operations rather than serve same-sex couples, several probate judges in Alabama took similar stands. At one point in 2016, officials in 11 Alabama counties confirmed they had ceased issuing marriage licenses out of resistance to marriage equality. Davis famously went to jail for failing to comply with a court order to grant licenses without discrimination, and Kentucky eventually changed its marriage license law so that clerks' names did not appear on the licenses. The Alabama legislation represents a similar effort to accommodate officials who oppose marriage equality.