MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama will require new forms— and a new process — for getting married beginning next week.
The Alabama Department of Public Health issued guidance Tuesday about the new form and procedure. The Alabama Legislature this year voted to do away with marriage licenses to accommodate conservative probate judges who objected to same-sex marriage.
Instead of a marriage license, couples will fill out a new form , have it notarized and then take it to the probate judge within 30 days. A wedding ceremony is no longer required, but a couple can still have one if they choose. The couple's marriage date is the date that the affidavit on the Alabama Marriage Certificate form is signed by the two spouses, provided the notarized form is returned to the probate office within the required time frame.
The change begins Aug. 29.
Ever since same-sex marriage became legal in Alabama, a few of the state's 68 probate judges had refused to issue marriage licenses to anyone so they didn't have to give them to gay couples. Alabama law says probate judges "may" issue marriage, but doesn't force them to do so.
Republican Sen. Greg Albritton proposed the change in state law. He said he believes it should accommodate probate judges' concerns and allow people to get marriage documents everywhere.
"There are many areas that are not conducting any marriages at all in the state. That puts a burden on those residents to travel somewhere else," Albritton said. "I think it is going to allow all of Alabama to engage in matrimony. I think that is a very good thing," Albritton said.
Albritton pushed the change for several years before it was approved this legislative session.
When the Alabama House of Representatives approved the change in May, Rep. Neil Rafferty, the only openly gay member of the House, said the change was "born out of prejudice."
"It accommodates a handful of judges that couldn't get their personal feelings, couldn't check those at the door and couldn't do their jobs," Rafferty, D-Birmingham, told reporters in May.