MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers are close to abolishing judge-signed marriage licenses as some conservative probate judges in the state continue to object to same-sex marriage.
Couples would still get a form at the local courthouse to get married but it would be called a marriage certificate instead of a marriage license. The proposed change comes as a few Alabama probate judges refuse to issue marriage licenses to anyone so they don't have to give them to gay couples.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the Senate-passed bill Wednesday. It now moves to the House floor where it could receive final passage.
Republican Sen. Greg Albritton says he's proposing the change so marriage documents will be issued everywhere in the state.
"We don't have marriage available to everybody in Alabama. There are still counties that will not issue marriage licenses," Albritton, R-Range, said.
Albritton said he did not know how many probate judges were refusing to issue licenses, but said he believed it was about seven.
Under the bill, instead of a judge signing a marriage license before a couple's wedding, the couples would return a notarized marriage certificate form to the probate judge's office to record their marriage. Albritton argued the proposal would not be much change for couples.
Couples would also no longer need a wedding ceremony, but could choose to have one.
Rep. Merika Coleman, who voted against the bill in committee, said she is concerned that it is a significant change to accommodate a few judges opposing same-sex marriage.
Coleman said she is also worried it could create difficulties when people apply for spousal benefits, such as military benefits, that have traditionally required a copy of a marriage license. Albritton said he did not think that would be a problem.
"I see the writing on the wall. More than likely this bill is going to pass," Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove, said.
Albritton said first introduced the bill in 2015 and said he has worked to reach an acceptable compromise.