Families of daughters all over Alabama can give a big sigh of relief.

Alabama has taken the ceremony out of matrimony.

In order to appease a group of eight Alabama probate judges, Alabama passed legislation that ended the traditional aspects of marriage.

Alabama’s new marriage law went into effect Aug. 29.

The new law eliminates the existing process of obtaining a marriage license and replaces it with a requirement for a state-provided form that must be completed and notarized before being delivered back to the Probate Office.  Once the paperwork is signed and recorded by the probate office, the couple is considered to be married.

No fuss, no muss. 

Alabama probate judges will no longer issue licenses for folks to marry.

Wedding ceremonies will no longer be required.  The notarized form attesting applicants meet the legal requirement is all that will be needed.

The legal requirements include that the person must be at least 18 years of age.  A person can marry if they are 16 and have the consent of one parent.  The previous law required both parents to sign off on the marriage.  The new law requires applicants to attest they are of legal age, are not already married, are not related and are competent to enter a marriage.  There are no residency requirements in the new law.

Under the new law, the affidavit and forms constitute a legal marriage if submitted within 30 days of being signed by the two parties.

If all of this sounds like a contract instead of a marriage, that’s because the law says the Alabama Marriage Certificate represents a contractual agreement between the parties to the marriage.

Can it get any more romantic than knowing you have a contract with your significant other?

The State senator from Atmore who introduced the bill says the legislation is in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2015.  The Court ruled that state prohibitions on same-sex marriages were unconstitutional under the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

After the ruling several probate judges in Alabama refused to issue marriage licenses to any couples, whether gay or straight.  One probate judge said adding his signature to the marriage license was basically saying he endorsed it.

Gosh, I hope this can’t be right because I have had to sign some of my children’s test papers when I most certainly did not endorse the grades that were on them.

Instead of just removing the judges who won’t do their job, the legislature found a way to change everything we have ever known about the marriage process.

Marriage is viewed as a covenant and a wedding ceremony is the official ceremony of concluding this convent with God as a witness.  Some people even consider it the most important part of a wedding.

Because the previous bill said probate judges “may” issue marriages licenses, no action could be taken against them according to officials.  They could not be forced to do their jobs.

The bill’s sponsor says it removes the need for government permission to marry and that it will be the end of the state telling people who they can and cannot marry.

Opponents of the new law contend that if county judges would simply obey the constitution, none of this would be necessary.

There is no definite conclusion on whether other states will recognize the new marriage certificate.  Some other unanswered questions include the legality of the certificate regarding inheritance and insurance benefits.  Also not included in the bill is how people can extricate themselves from the contract if things don’t work out.

The new marriage certificate will be recorded like a deed or mortgage.

Some say it removes the beauty and romance of marriage.

Others say it was the best compromise to end controversy, let people marry who they want, how they want and go about their business.

If the problem these judges had with the Court’s ruling on gay marriage was their objection on moral grounds, someone should inform them they aren’t the moral police.  Their job was to provide a license to anyone who filled out the paperwork.

 We should also remind them that they most certainly have issued licenses to adulterers, liars and other ten commandment breakers over the years.  The truth is they have no idea about the private lives of the people who come through their offices and there is no reason why they should.

While it is appropriate for the state to uphold the Constitution, this law is just another example of legislators going too far to make a point.

Anita McGill is a former publisher of The Sentinel. She can be reached by email at anitamcgill99@gmail.com.

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