June 2, 2015

AL SENATE VOTES TO END MARRIAGE LICENSES: The Alabama Senate has voted 22-3 to scrap the State’s issuance of all marriage licenses. The bill, SB 377, would transform marriage into a contract, rather than a license, and would not require a marriage ceremony to be valid.

The purpose? Presumably, by taking the State out of the business of issuing marriage “licenses,” marriage would just become another private contractual undertaking, and any Supreme Court ruling that, under the Due Process or Equal Protection Clauses, States must issue marriage “licenses” to same-sex couples would not bind the State of Alabama, which would no longer be in the marriage license business, as a technical, formal matter.

But this seems a bit silly, since SB 377 says, “Effective July 1, 2015, the only requirement to be married in this state shall be for parties who are otherwise legally authorized to be married to enter into a contract of marriage as provided herein.”  It then lists the required form of the contract. But the key question is who is “legally authorized to be married”?  Presumably, the State of Alabama would continue to specify this (and has, pursuant to a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man, one woman). And also presumably, the Alabama Senate did not intend to authorize contractual marriage among multiple persons (polygamy) or among closely related individuals (incest).

Whatever the purpose, the measure now moves to the Alabama house for consideration.  Stay tuned.

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