Alabama Anti-Marriage Equality Bill Also Hurts Victims of Domestic Abuse
Posted by Jason T. Frost
April 4, 2016
In an example of post-judicial infantilism, the state of Alabama is doing everything it possibly can to discourage same-sex marriage.
Early last month, the Alabama Supreme Court ignored the stamping of feet from certain special interest groups in the state by affirming the fact that they would (reluctantly) follow federal law to the letter by offering marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Despite this, the Alabama Supreme Court refused to recognize same-sex adoptions if they occurred out-of-state, a decision overturned by a per curium opinion handed down by the Supreme Court itself later that same month.
Now, the Alabama legislature is attempting to change the way marriage works in the state altogether. Senate Bill 143, introduced by Sen. Greg Albritton this February, would effectively end the distribution of all marriage licenses in the state.
What does this bill do? Now, instead of getting a marriage license in a courthouse, a couple must instead have lawyers record a marriage via signed affadavits. Now, all a court has to do is record that a marriage happened.
What is the purpose of the bill? According to the bill’s proponents, it’s because they want “government out of marriage.” In reality, it is an attempt by state lawmakers and judiciary members to find a way to refuse to acknowledge the credibility of same-sex marriage without having to go against federal law. Will this affect the validity of same-sex marriage? No. But some opponents of the bill are afraid that it opens the door for judges to loophole their way into refusing to record marriages based on their religious beliefs. After all, the marriage already happened. It’s just not on the books yet.
In an unforeseen turn of events, the state funding lost from not issuing marriage licenses also stands to take away from domestic violence programs to the tune of $2 million a year. This could mean the closure of state-sponsored battered women shelters like Penelope House in Mobile and Light House in Baldwin County. Though Sen. Albritton has promised an amendment to fix this issue, it hasn’t been presented into House discussions. Given the state of Alabama’s already thinly-stretched budget, it may not happen at all.
Luckily, a similar bill died in the state legislature last year. SB143 may have passed in the Senate, but it is currently waiting to be discussed in a House committee.
In similar news, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who is staunchly against marriage equality, has attempted repeatedly to circumvent federal courts in any way he can. Moore still believes the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is legally binding, and in March criticized the American Bar Association’s proposed revisions to extend protection workplace discrimination laws to ethnicity, marital status and gender identity. If this bill passes, it could take many years for a successful challenge to overturn it in the courts.