“All requirements to obtain a marriage license by the State of Alabama are hereby abolished and repealed. The requirement of a ceremony of marriage to solemnized the marriage is abolished.”
On Wednesday of this past week, a committee in the Alabama state House passed a bill that would end the need for obtaining a marriage license in the state. The purpose of the bill is to end the divisive debate over gay marriage, leaving authority for such issues in the hands of the people.
The proposed House bill mirrors one that passed the Senate in March and would mean that the government would no longer be issuing marriage licenses, but only recording civil contracts of marriage between two individuals. As the Tenth Amendment Center’s Michael Boldin says, “Licenses are used as a way to stop people from doing things. Personal relationship should not be subject to government permission.” This is similar to an argument I made in another publication several years ago, in the midst of our fight to stop gay marriage, when I argued that the best way to defend traditional marriage is to divorce the government from the marriage industry.
If the bill passes the House (and is signed into law by the Governor), some conditions will still apply. Minors, between the ages of 16-18, will still need parental consent to marry and the two individuals who were marrying could not be related by blood or adoption. The kind of marriage that takes place would not matter, as the only concern for the state would now be the legally binding contract signed by the two parties. In effect, this would “legalize” gay marriage in Alabama, but the “marriages” could be wholly ignored by the church and the state.
“A civil and independent or religious ceremony of marriage, celebration of marriage, solemnization of marriage, or any other officiation, or administration of the vows of marriage may be conducted or engaged in by the parties by an officiant or other presiding person to be selected by the persons entering into the marriage. The state shall have no requirement for any such ceremony or proceeding which, if performed or not performed, will have no legal effect upon the validity of the marriage.”
The Tenth Amendment Center explains what the “practical effects” of the bill would be for Alabama.
First, it would effectively render void the edicts of federal judges that have overturned state laws defining marriage. The founding generation never envisioned unelected judges issuing ex cathedra pronouncements regarding the definition of social institutions like marriage and the Constitution delegates the federal judiciary no authority to meddle in the issue. Constitutionally, marriage is an issue left to the state and the people.
Second, the bill would limit the state’s role in defining and regulating marriage, ending the squabble between factions seeking to harness the power of the state.
This would remove the burden from government officials torn between the legal requirements of their jobs and their personal religious convictions. For people on the other side of the issue, they can rest easy knowing that in the future, they can rest easy knowing that government will not interfere with their personal relationship.
By limiting the state’s role in marriage. SB143 would allow Alabamians to structure their personal relationships as they see fit without interference from the government or other people.
If the legislative attempt to end the liberal assault on traditional marriage works in Alabama, it could be an impressive blueprint for conservatives to use in other states across the country. There is no long history of government involvement in marriage, it has traditionally fallen under the purview of the church (and other religious institutions), and our best hope of defending one of our most sacred ceremonies may indeed be removing the government from the union.