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Alabama Getting Closer to Eliminating Marriage Licenses Entirely (UPDATE: Bill Fails for Now)

Little will change functionally, but people will just be freer to wed how they choose.

No kissing until you fill out form 342j34-B. In triplicate!Credit: EnriqueMéndez / photo on flickrIt may happen, folks. Because of conservative opposition by judges who don't want to deal with same-sex marriages, Alabama is getting closer and closer to just divorcing itself from the wedding process. Marriages will still happen and will still be recognized by the state of Alabama, but government officials won't have anything to do with the process anymore.

Instead, couples will get a "marriage contract form" from the state, fill it out, sign it, declaring that they're getting married of their own free will, get two witnesses to sign it, and turn it into the government for filing (and give them money). They can have whatever wedding ceremony they want or none at all. The government just will not be part of the process of getting married on the front end. On the back end, SB 21 (formerly SB 4), will leave it to the courts if there's any questions related to the legal validity of any marriages or handle any subsequent marital and family strife issues that may come up. So to answer a question when I wrote about this bill a little while ago, the state will recognize marriage contracts for relationships currently considered valid by law. That means yes to same-sex marriages but no to polyamorous marriages. But in the event that group marriage does become legal, Alabama will already be set up to deal with it. They'll just have to alter the form.

The bill has passed the Alabama Senate and is now in the House. But because the state is in a special session to hammer out a budget, it will need a two-thirds vote in the House to pass.

You'd think everybody would be happy with this outcome, but of course not. Alabama gay groups and the American Civil Liberties Union have to complain, even though they're going to actually get everything they want. Except for making some bigot judge pronounce them married apparently. From the Human Rights Campaign:

"There is absolutely no reason to change the way the state of Alabama handles marriages,  period.  While the bill impacts all Alabamians who wish to get married, it is clearly unnecessary, needless, and being driven by elected officials who oppose marriage equality victories and now wish to score cheap political points because of it.  Frankly, It's a ham-handed solution in search of a non-existent problem."

There's also fearmongering that without actual "licenses," the federal government or other states somehow won't be able to know who is or is not actually married, which is silly semantic nonsense. There will be records filed with the state in this system. I wouldn't put it past any number of dumb-ass bureaucrats to be "confused" for some reason, but that's not an argument for anything. Maybe the other states should just follow suit and let the citizens tell them when they're married.

Yes, obviously the reasons behind this move are bigoted, but just stop, please. This doesn't need to be a scorched earth war. Apparently now that they've won, they forgot why the entire marriage battle happened in the first place. It was because the government was controlling who and who not could be married? Remember that whole thing? Getting government as much out of the process as possible is a positive for everybody. We have gay marriage recognition and it's awesome. Taking control of marriage out of the hands of judgmental government officials is even better. That's what actual liberty looks like—you telling the government that you're married, not the other way around.

UPDATE: A majority of the House voted in favor of eliminating licenses, but it did not meet the two-thirds threshold to pass in the special session. It's dead for now, but could return in the regular session in February. In the regular session, it would not need the special two-thirds majority approval.

Photo Credit: EnriqueMéndez / photo on flickr

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  • Almanian - Micro Trumper||

    "It's a ham-handed solution in search of a non-existent problem."

    Heh!

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Indict it!

  • Hugh Akston||

    That's what actual liberty looks like—you telling the government that you're married, not the other way around.

    I'm not sure liberty is what they were after in the first place. Otherwise why even get married?

  • croaker||

    The whole reason for licenses was to keep blacks from marrying whites.

    Long past time for this to go away.

  • SIV||

    Marriages will still happen and will still be recognized by the state of Alabama, but government officials won't have anything to do with the process anymore.

    Libertarian moment

  • Hugh Akston||

    That meme was never funny, but you have taken it to a whole new level of incomprehensibility.

  • SIV||

    The problem lies with your comprehension. I'm not using it as a "meme" here but in the sense Welch and Gillespie originally coined the phrase. Alabama is getting out of the marriage business.

  • Notorious UGCC||

    Alabama would remain in the marriage business if the bill passed.

    As anyone with a divorce case in the Alabama courts will find out.

  • ||

    Being in the divorce business ain't the same as being in the marriage business.

  • RBS||

    I'll give SIV credit, at least he's not Corning.

  • Almanian - Micro Trumper||

    Is this...negging?

  • SIV||

    Apparently now that they've won, they forgot why the entire marriage battle happened in the first place. It was because the government was controlling who and who not could be married? Remember that whole thing?

    What color is the sky on your planet, Shackford?

  • Almanian - Micro Trumper||

    Rainbow?

  • Pan Zagloba||

    Yeah, the battle wasn't over government controlling, it was for making sure government said "Yes" to gays marrying. In rest of the world, where government authority comes from God, that was mostly done through parliaments voting "Yes" without consulting voters. In US, had to go through courts. But either way, government recognition and coercion was the point.

  • Paul.||

    Marriages will still happen and will still be recognized by the state of Alabama, but government officials won't have anything to do with the process anymore.

    Interesting, so Alabama won't insert its boilerplate government contract when one or the other partner meets their soulmate? I find that hard to believe.

    On the back end, SB 21 (formerly SB 4), will leave it to the courts if there's any questions related to the legal validity of any marriages or handle any subsequent marital and family strife issues that may come up. So to answer a question when I wrote about this bill a little while ago, the state will recognize marriage contracts for relationships currently considered valid by law.

    This is confusingly written. Without a state license, how do I prove I wasn't married to the strange woman next door when she claims things "didn't work out" and wants my house and 50% of my retirement accounts?

  • Zeb||

    Won't have anything to do with the process of getting married. Not with what happens after that.

  • Paul.||

    Right, I kind of got that. But what am I missing here, if the state refuses to be involved in the declaration of marriage, how will couples present themselves as "currently married, wishing to not be"? How do they keep someone from declaring they weren't actually married when they were, or were married when they actually weren't?

    That would be like a strange woman declaring "Paul's the father, garnish his wages" without providing a blood test.

  • Notorious UGCC||

    If the woman says she married you in Alabama after this bill passes (if it does), then if there's no marriage contract filed in any probate office...they're going to be skeptical of her claim.

  • ||

    how do you think family court works? blood test. how quaint.

  • RBS||

    There are these things called pleadings and then this process called discovery.

  • Zeb||

    The state still files the forms. If there is no form on file, then the state doesn't consider you married.
    It's really very little different from how it is now except you can fill in the form and file it yourself instead of having a clergy-person or JP do it for you.

  • Notorious UGCC||

    She would need to get a copy of her marriage contract with you, as filed with the probate court: " The recording of a civil contract of marriage with the office of the judge of probate shall be presumptive evidence of the validity of the marriage."

  • Paul.||

    Huh, was that on the click-thru?

  • Notorious UGCC||

    The link marked "SB 21"

  • Paul.||

    I didn't find that exact text, but I found this:

    but
    13 instead, will be statutorily required to receive
    14 and record civil contracts of marriage presented by
    15 parties to the civil contract.
    ===

    Interesting. Without reading the entire bill, does that mean the couple gets a standard state boilerplate divorce contract, or does each couple have to build that from scratch?

  • Notorious UGCC||

    I think the bill would leave the divorce law as it was.

  • ||

    'Without a state license, how do I prove I wasn't married to the strange woman next door when she claims things "didn't work out" and wants my house and 50% of my retirement accounts?'

    As always, the burthen of proof is on the femme to demonstrate her claim. In common-law states, for instance, there has to have been at least one incident in which you and she presented yourselves as married before some third party. In addition, shared address, shared bank account, and so forth.

  • Notorious UGCC||

    "This doesn't need to be a scorched earth war."

    What else have the activists been hoping for all this time?

    Of *course* they want a scorched-earth war, until every judge, every clerk, every baker, every wedding chapel owner, every private school, has been confronted with the ultimatum: "Do as we tell you or be crushed."

    Did it take this long to figure it out?

  • tarran||

    It was because the government was controlling who and who not could be married? Remember that whole thing?

    So, Scott, when did you start admiring Amanda Marcotte's breezy writing style? Do you think you are up to the task of pulling of such a difficult yet powerful method of persuasion?

  • ||

    ...gay groups and the American Civil Liberties Union have to complain, even though they're going to actually get everything they want.

    NPR had a story yesterday expressing that same sentiment:

    The test came when a lesbian couple from nearby Lexington stopped in to get a license... Shannon and Carmen Wampler-Collins were greeted by deputy county clerk Brian Mason. It took just a few minutes, but soon, they had their license in hand. The form did not have Davis's title and name. Shannon Wampler-Collins said it was ridiculous Davis changed the form.

    "You know, no one is asking her, nor do we seek her blessing, you know? It's just a legal document certifying that we meet the requirements. And I think it's a little ridiculous that she needed to go to that length..."

    ...says someone who traveled four counties away from home to get their license.

  • SIV||

    Not being able to force the blessing of Kim Davis is tyranny.

  • ||

    ...says someone who traveled four counties away from home to get their license.

    Wampler-Collins? Seriously!?

    Hyphenation aside, Collins-Wampler, is clearly the right arrangement if the name Wampler is worth propagating at all.

  • pan fried wylie||

    ehhhh....I dunno. rolls off my tongue as "Collin-Swampler", and I don't know what a swampler is but is sounds terrifying. not that W-C is any better.

    Seriously, let Wampler die a quiet death. Your adopted-children-with-two-mommies will thank you.

  • Zeb||

    Well, I think it was an excellent article, Scott. Don't listen to all these old grumpy-pants.

  • ATXChappy||

    "...That's what actual liberty looks like"

    Except, they weren't seeking liberty, they where seeking equality.

  • wareagle||

    Except, they weren't seeking liberty, they where seeking equality.

    oh, please; they were seeking the state's blessing. And whatever benefits come with it.

  • ||

    A little from column A, a little from column B.

    They were trying to catch a rainbow and stumbled over a pot of gold. Who wants a fucking rainbow if you've got a pot of gold?

  • ATXChappy||

    Yes, that's what I was talking about. What did you think I meant by equality?

  • Zeb||

    I'd say more from column B. Which is quite reasonable. And often known as "equality under the law" (anyone who goes to the courts seeking actual equality is a fucking nutjob) While I might not agree that all the benefits should exist, I think it is a good principle of law that they should not be arbitrarily denied to certain people.

  • Gomerphobe||

    But they are still arbitrarily denied to certain people. This whole thing was about increasing the arbitrary categories.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The marriage license as cultural acceptance? Who would have guessed that was the real reason behind some marriage activism.

  • Notorious UGCC||

    You could have knocked me over with a feather.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    So, if I move to Alabama I will be able to marry a pig?

  • SIV||

    Not until the divorce from your current sow (or boar) is final.

  • Mindyourbusiness||

    At risk of maligning some of the fair ladies of Alabama...

  • Notorious UGCC||

    I presume they'd file the paperwork, since that's simply a ministerial duty of the probate judge, but it would be for the subsequent litigation to decide if the purported marriage is valid.

    I won't speak for the Alabama courts (or the California or Massachusetts courts, for that matter), but I expect the judge would say there isn't any valid marriage with a pig.

    [insert police joke here]

  • Paul.||

    You don't have to move to Alabama to do that.

  • GILMORE™||

    "Alabama is getting closer and closer to just divorcing itself from the wedding process. '

    YEEEEE HAWWWW!!

    "You'd think everybody would be happy with this outcome, but of course not. '

    ....

    ....

    of course *not*?

    ""There is absolutely no reason to change the way the state of Alabama handles marriages, period. '''

    ....

    wasn't the way it was being handled before.... not.... gay.... enough?....

    " obviously the reasons behind this move are bigoted'"

    "Obviously?"

    What the hell is so bigoted about "getting out of the way"? If we can get more legislation repealed by making bigots exasperated, then by all means, LET THERE BE MORE BIGOTRY, PLEASE

  • Notorious UGCC||

    "There is absolutely no reason to change the way the state of Alabama handles marriages, period."

    Good call on that quote. I hope it's used against them.

  • Zeb||

    "geting out of the way" isn't the reason behind it, it's the effect.

  • GILMORE™||

    Where did i make any distinction between the reasons and the effect?

    My point was that this is a desired result.

    Scott says that the motivation is "Obviously" bigoted.

    I find that hard to fathom unless your definition of "Bigotry" is an 'absence of affirmation', rather than a refusal to tolerate out-groups.

    "Tolerance" is not affirmation. Tolerance can include affirmation, but doesn't have to.

    Tolerance includes "we hate you, but we'll get the fuck out of the way so we don't have to deal with your shit"

  • Zeb||

    Well, the passage you quoted was talking about the reasons, so it seemed reasonable that you were also. Pardon me.

    Seems to me that you can be tolerant and still be a bigot. At which point one's bigotry is really not an issue to me if you don't rub it in my face.

    I think this change would be great, regardless of the motivation. And that people who oppose it because of the motivations behind it are obnoxious and dumb.

  • GILMORE™||

    "you can be tolerant and still be a bigot."

    I'm not so sure.

    Or at least what you're saying might need a different word.

    "big·ot·ry/ˈbiɡətrē/ - noun

    intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself"

    its interesting that the word has no original association whatsoever with innate racial/ethnic/behavioral characteristics that people tend to think of bigotry in terms of.

    ""In English the word "bigot" refers to a state of mind where a person is obstinately, irrationally, or unfairly intolerant of ideas, opinions, or beliefs that differ from their own, and intolerant of the people who hold them.[1][2].

    It would seem that merely 'thinking/believing' another person's ideas/beliefs are atrocious and despicable, things with which you choose not to associate yourself.... is not bigotry. It would require actual refusal to accept their co-existence as equal to your own.

  • Gomerphobe||

    Then you've defined bigotry to the point of meaningless. You're being bigoted right now by that logic.

  • ||

    All the objections are absurd. Common-law states handle marriage with even less bureaucratic manhandling and get by just fine. And then there's the case of folks with common-law marriages recognised by a state moving to another state which doesn't admit unlicensed marriage but still has to accept them if the marriage was confected in the first state. It happens all the time and things haven't flown to pieces.

  • bassjoe||

    Remember that group that decided to dissolve itself once same-sex marriage won at the Supreme Court because it believed it had without a doubt won? Class act.

  • Jason Bayz||

    Apparently now that they've won, they forgot why the entire marriage battle happened in the first place. It was because the government was controlling who and who not could be married? Remember that whole thing?

    Wow, you actually think that was why they fought the battle? Fool me one, shame on you.....

  • Notorious UGCC||

    Lube up, libertarians, they're coming for you next.

    I'll try to repress my schaden...shadden...my feeling of "I told you so."

  • Zeb||

    Told who what? Who's coming for whom? I don't think that anyone is under any illusions about the unlibertarianness of almost everyone. Some of us are capable of making distinctions and having opinions of things without throwing in with some political or activist "team".

  • Paul.||

    If there's a steady paycheck in it, I'll believe in anything you say...

  • Zeb||

    I knew that was from something great, but had to look it up.

  • Overt||

    +1 Stay puff

  • pan fried wylie||

    what was it, like $12k a year. in NEW YORK CITY.

    so quaint.

  • kbolino||

    Lube up, libertarians, they're coming for you next.

    There was a time they weren't coming for us?

  • Bill Dalasio||

    This is probably the best all around solution to the entire issue. OF COURSE the Kultur Warriors on the left are going to get in a snit about it. They have the social advantage right now. And, dammit, they want their pound of flesh. Not being able to make "those people" sign off on their views defeats the whole purpose of Kulturkampf.

    Do you ever walk away from the news feeling that most people aren't only not libertarian, but are out-and-out dicks?

  • Bubba Jones||

    I am a libertarian because I believe too many people are dicks.

  • Ceci n'est pas un woodchipper||

    Funny, throw "stupid and/or" in front of "dicks" and that's why I'm an anarchist.

  • Marshal||

    Apparently now that they've won, they forgot why the entire marriage battle happened in the first place.

    Well one of you is wrong about it anyway.

  • Zeb||

    Or maybe different people have different motivations for doing things.

    Nah, that couldn't be.

  • Belin||

    I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h… Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link... Try it, you won't regret it!......

    www.HomeJobs90.Com

  • DaveSs||

    As I understand it, prior to the late 1800s this was exactly how marriage was handled.

    You declared your marriage, and (if you were so inclined) you informed the local government, though most people apparently skipped that part.

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