The state senate in Alabama has approved a bill which, if signed into law, would eliminate marriage licenses in the state. Not just gay marriage licenses, mind you. All marriage licenses. There would also be no requirement for any sort of official ceremony. You’d only have to submit a few documents to a probate judge declaring that you were wed, met the minimum age requirements, weren’t already married and weren’t too closely related by blood. (And that part isn’t much of an issue in Alabama since you can marry pretty much anyone but your parents, siblings or children.) This will ostensibly rid them of the problem of probate judges refusing to grant wedding licenses to gay couples, assuming the state house passes the bill as well. (Alabama.com)

A bill to eliminate marriage licenses in Alabama and set up a process under which probate judges accept affidavits from couples as official records of marriage has passed the Alabama Senate.

The cost would be the same that it now costs to buy a marriage license.

The requirement of a ceremony to solemnize the marriage would be eliminated.

The sponsor, Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, said that would take the state out of any role in marriage ceremonies, which he said would properly separate church and state.

Hey, wait a minute here… it almost feels as if I had to cover this exact same story before. Oh, that’s right. I did, back in June of 2015. The state offered up a similar piece of legislation then which failed to make it into law, but that was back during the heat of the gay marriage backlash debate.

So, assuming they manage the feat this time, what does it really mean? At a quick glance, you’d probably think that this is perfectly in line with my personal views on gay marriage and marriage in general, which I’ve written about here more times than I can count. From a small government conservative perspective, I still believe that the government (at any level) has no business demanding a permission slip from (even if you call it a license) or charging a tax (portrayed as a fee) on any two people in order to secure the official blessing of a private ceremony held in front of family and friends which has zero impact on anyone else. So this must be a good thing, right?

Well, it’s not a bad thing, but it really doesn’t change much of anything, either. Yes, it probably prevents a probate judge from generating even more bad headlines by denying someone a license, but that’s about all. You still have to pay a tax. You still have to be “registered” on the government rosters as being married. You still get all the same perquisites and penalties which variously arise from marital provisions in the tax code and other laws. You’ve simply removed one step in the paperwork process and a bit of the pomp and circumstance. Of course, you’re still free to have a private ceremony with no legal impact, but that was always the point to begin with.

This bill would change virtually nothing in Alabama. If you want to truly reform the system we should strip the word marriage from nearly all the laws on the books. (I specify “nearly” because there are a few involving minimum age and validity of consent which we would need to keep around to prevent marriage from being used as a cover for pedophilia or the abuse of the mentally disabled.) While we’re at it, you could specify that nobody is required to participate in any marriage ceremony or other private rituals, including the creation of cakes, photo albums, catering and all the rest, if doing so would conflict with their personal freedom of religion, speech or anything else. Let people handle marriage on their own, with the cooperation and involvement of any parties interested in participating.