Since Alabama followed the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015, same-sex marriage has been legally possible.
However, due to the wording of the law, which said that probate judges “may” issue a marriage license, same-sex couples in some instances were turned away by judges who said they could not issue the license due to their religion.
Rep. Wes Allen, (R-Troy) was one of those judges who refused to issue marriage licenses after the state legalized same-sex marriage.
He said that by signing a marriage license for a same-sex couple, judges were being asked to go against their religious principals.
“Effectively, by your signature going on that marriage license, basically in my opinion, you’re endorsing it. Because it’s your signature, just like you’re signing a check, you’re endorsing it. And that was one of the objections that I had back in 2015,” he told The Daily Caller.
“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, as do a lot of Alabamians,” Allen said, referring to a 2006 poll where 81 percent of Alabama voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a unique relationship between a man and a woman.
Now, a workaround has been proposed—one that will accommodate both religious freedom and the wish of same-sex couples to be recognized as a legal couple by separating secular law from religious adherence.
The bill even received Allen’s endorsement, as the changes will allow him to follow his principles regarding same-sex marriage.
The bill, sponsored by state Senator Greg Albritton (R), passed the Alabama House of Representatives on May 21 by 67 to 26 votes, according to AL.com.
According to the proposed changes, couples will only be required to return a form and an affidavit affirming they meet legal requirements for marriage to the probate judge’s office.
This will mean that if Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signs the bill into law, marriage licenses will no longer be required for a couple to be considered legally wed.
Rep. Neil Rafferty (D-Birmingham) who is the only openly gay member of the House and married for 15 years, told AL.com, “I think it’s far less about good governance and more about protecting folks that don’t want to do their jobs.”
He voted against the bill.
“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. 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,” he said.
Rafferty refers to eight judges of the 68 counties in the state that have objected to signing off marriage certificates under the current legislation, forcing same-sex couples to travel to another county to find a probate judge who is willing to issue the license.
Albritton said the changes in the bill would not be much change for couples, but would be more acceptable to judges because they only need to sign off the attest to warrant that the forms were filed with the county.
“I’m glad it’s done. This helps everybody in the state,” he told The Daily Caller.