The Alabama senate recently approved a bill that changes the way marriage is legitimized within the state. Traditionally, a couple seeking to get married would have to receive a marriage license from a probate judge and hold a ceremony to legitimize the marriage. However, the new bill proposed by Senator Greg Albritton removes the ceremony requirement and allows for the couple to submit affidavits to a probate judge, which will immediately legitimize the marriage.
Sen. Albritton’s first attempt to change Alabama marriage law was in 2015, after the state legalized gay marriage. Albritton has proposed this bill and ones similar to it ever since, saying that the bill would, “truly separate church and state.” Albritton argues that this bill will allow for the removal of the probate judge’s discretion and create a more fair system when it comes to legal marriages. Alabama is known for it’s conservative values and it’s deep rooted Christian principles. Albritton states that this can sway probate judges to make unfair decisions due to their personal beliefs - such as their opinion on homosexuality - and the removal of the mandatory license and ceremony will create a more even playing field for couples.
The bill has been met with minimal push back, with only one vote in it’s opposition. Senator Phil Williams argues that this bill will “water down the meaning of marriage.” With the affidavits equating to the same cost as a marriage license, and with every other aspect of marriage (divorce, child custody, etc.) remaining the same, Williams’s main concern is with the expulsion of the wedding ceremony. Without requiring an “official” ceremony, Alabama is essentially removing the mandatory Christian/religious aspect of marriage, which is exactly what Senator Albritton thinks is necessary to completely separate religion from state law.
Those who are seeking to obtain a legal marriage must still be at least eighteen years old (or sixteen, if parental consent is provided) and must not be related through blood or adoption. Albritton’s bill seems like a logical step in secularizing the law, yet for many individuals that maintain their Christian values, this can seem like a pointless edit to the reverence of marriage.
As a Christian, it is disheartening to see the true portrait of marriage simply become an option. Marriage is meant to be a vow of your life to the person you are marrying, and additionally, to state your intent to maintain the sanctity of your bond until “death do you part.” By completely removing the church from marriage, this bill in turn completely removes God from marriage.
Many in today’s secular culture argue that it is not right for the state to require an aspect of religion to be present in a legal matter. Consequently, many non-Christians reject Senator Williams’s. However, the removal of such a requirement ends the age-old tradition that marriage is a pact held higher than the law itself, and puts it on the same level as every other legal matter than individuals participate in. Fortunately, couples who still want to follow the tradition of a Christian marriage, are still perfectly able to do so.
This article was written by Emily Atwell, an intern at the Reid Law Firm. Emily is studying linguistics at the University of Alabama Birmingham and is interested in pursuing a legal career in education, criminal, and family law. For comments and questions, Emily can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org