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Alabama Votes to End Marriage Licenses to Placate Homophobes

Alabama capitol

Both houses of Alabama’s legislature have now approved a bill designed to accommodate judges who don’t want to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, sending it to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature.

The bill replaces marriage licenses, which are issued by county probate judges in the state, with a marriage certificate that spouses will fill out and submit to the judge, who will simply accept and record it.

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the bill Thursday by a vote of 67-26, according to AL.com, a website for several Alabama newspapers. The Senate had approved it in March. Media reports do not indicate whether Ivey is likely to sign it, but as she’s a conservative Republican, it’s a good bet that she will.

While the bill will not limit same-sex couples’ ability to marry, it was motivated by the fact that a few probate judges in the state have refused to serve these couples, who then had to go to other counties for their licenses.

“I feel like while in and of itself it is not prejudiced, I feel like it was born out of prejudice, though,” Rep. Neil Rafferty, a Birmingham Democrat who is the only openly gay member of the House, told AL.com. “That’s just kind of my ultimate feelings, why I ultimately couldn’t support the bill, even though in and of itself it does create a system that treats everyone equal before the state.”

“I think it’s far less about good governance and more about protecting folks that don’t want to do their jobs,” added Rafferty, who married his longtime partner last December.

Sen. Greg Allbritton, the bill’s author, said it provides a solution that accommodates all couples. “It allows everybody in the state now to go to their local courthouse, or wherever, to accomplish this without traveling somewhere else, which is the intent of the law,” he said.

Alabama has been the site of many battles over marriage equality. When homophobe Roy Moore was chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he advised probate judges to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling, contending that Alabama’s constitution, which banned same-sex marriage, superseded it. But most probate judges eventually went along with marriage equality, and Moore ended up being removed from office and making an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate.

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