The state of Alabama recently passed a law effectively repealing marriage licenses. According to the bill, the state would view marriages as contracts, but would have no control or authority on the question of marriage, as such:
In an effort to resolve the issue in advance of a potential future in which same-sex marriages may be declared legal once again, Senate Bill 377 would remove the requirement that couples obtain a license from a probate judge and replace it instead with a contract process requiring only a signature by a notary public, clergy member, or attorney. The bill would only allow two adult parties to join in marriage and would prohibit currently-married people from marrying a second time.
It’s an interesting solution. On one hand, it appeals to Tenth Amendment activists who would like to see the civil government butt out of the marriage question altogether. And on the other hand, this appeals to proponents of same-sex marriage because homosexual “marriages” would have the same “legal” status as heterosexual unions if marriage licenses were “abolished.”
But there are detractors. For one, this feels a little bit like, “You two are fighting over this? Well, Daddy Government will just take it away from both of you then.” Many conservatives have given support to the bill, citing the marital traditions of centuries gone by, where the civil government was merely informed that a marriage had taken place and was not authorized to grant marriage licenses.
But during that time, who was responsible to define marriage? And who was authorized to marry people? The church. That arrangement has been significantly altered by the years. The church doesn’t really define marriage anymore. Few people, homosexual or heterosexual, view the church as an authority capable of marrying without the state’s stamp of legality.
Added to that, this bill was clearly designed to circumvent Alabama’s nullification of a national same-sex marriage bill. It purports to be about reducing government intrusion into people’s personal lives, but at least in one sense, it further reduces the state’s capacity to resist national tyranny.
I don’t know if this law on marriage licenses will fly. It’s certainly an intriguing solution to the issue though. What do you think?