MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - After some conservative Alabama probate judges stopped issuing marriage licenses over the issue of same-sex marriage, state lawmakers have come up with a workaround: marriage certificates that don’t have to be signed before the wedding by the judge.
The bill, which won final approval Thursday, now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature.
For several years a few conservative probate judges in Alabama have refused to issue marriage licenses to anyone so they don’t have to issue them to gay and lesbian couples.
The House of Representatives voted 67-26 for the bill that would replace marriage licenses with a new form called a marriage certificate.
Republican Sen. Greg Albritton, the sponsor of the bill, said he proposed the change so people can obtain marriage documents in every county.
Rep. Neil Rafferty, the only openly gay member of the House, said the proposal was “born out of prejudice.”
“It accommodates a handful of judges that couldn’t get their personal feelings, couldn’t check them those at the door and couldn’t do their jobs,” Rafferty, D-Birmingham, said.
Current Alabama law says probate judges “may” issue marriage, but doesn’t force them to do so.
After same-sex couples obtained the legal right to marry, about a half dozen of Alabama’s 68 probate judges declined to issue licenses so they would not have to give them to gay couples.
Rep. Wes Allen, a Republican from Pike County, was one of the judges who made that decision.
“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, as do a lot of Alabamians,” Allen said.
Allen said he received “overwhelming” support in the county for his decision.
Currently a judge signs a marriage license before a couple’s wedding. Allen said he viewed signing the form as endorsing the marriage.
Under the proposed change, couples would return a form and an affidavit affirming they meet legal requirements to be married, to the probate judge’s office. The judge, or someone in his or her office, would still sign the certificate to show it was filed with the county. Albritton said that is acceptable to the judges because it is simply signing off on the documents being filed.
Albritton argued the proposal would not be much change for couples.
“I’m glad it’s done. This helps everybody in the state,” Albritton said.
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