Marriage equality may be the law of the land, across the land, within a few short weeks. Alabama just isn’t having it. Instead, they’ve been threatening to get rid of marriage altogether — or at least, all state sanction of it. Now, the state’s senate has gone through with a version of that threat: they’ve eliminated marriage licenses. Oddly, this doesn’t actually change marriage much at all — it only means that a clerk or judge is no longer needed to sign off on a document permitting it.
We all know Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore hates marriage equality. He’s sworn to fight it any way he can, and if the court does indeed affirm that marriage equality must apply in all states, including his, he won’t defy the law, but he’ll recuse himself from any cases where acknowledging a same-sex marriage is necessary. He’s been promoting “Alabama For Marriage” on his Facebook page — despite its name, it’s devoted to limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. He’s even demanding that Justices Ginsburg and Kagan recuse themselves from the vote on marriage equality because they’re expected to vote in favor.
His state may well be the most determined holdout against marriage equality. In fact, Alabama lawmakers have discussed the possibility of outlawing marriage altogether — apparently feeling it’s better to prevent all Alabama couples from wedding than to risk allowing same-sex couples to do so. They even debated only allowing marriage for religious couples.
Now, this is one step closer to completion, as the state senate today passed a bill that would effectively end marriage licenses. Tenth Amendment Center explains it this way.
“Something that is rarely considered by those seeking to control the state’s definition of marriage is that a marriage license means a citizen requires the permission of their government before they can get married. A person cannot drive a vehicle, aside from limited circumstances, without a license. A person cannot practice law without a license, nor can they engage in medical care.
Put another way, marriage is not a right, or a religious institution, but a privilege the state grants us if we meet the conditions put upon us.”
The bill doesn’t prevent anyone from getting married — it merely means that no one has to apply for a marriage license first. A marriage must still take place with an accepted officiant, and two witnesses. The bill must still pass the State House, as well.
Since this legislation wouldn’t prevent same-sex couples from getting married, if marriage equality becomes American law, it’s clear that the goal isn’t to completely prevent same-sex marriage. Instead, perhaps Roy Moore and other Alabama justices are satisfied simply to feel absolved of ever giving permission for one.
[Photo by: Matthew Cavanaugh / Getty Images]