The House of Representatives voted 67-26 to advance a bill that would create marriage certificates that don’t have to be signed by a judge. Instead, couples would submit a form to a probate judge saying they meet the legal requirements of marriage and the judge would record it as the official marriage document.
The bill won approval from the Senate and awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Kay Ivey.
Probate judges in the state may issue marriage licenses, but they are not required to do so, under current law. Under the bill, the judges would be required to accept and record official marriage documents.
“It allows everybody in the state now to go to their local courthouse, or wherever, to accomplish this without traveling somewhere else, which is the intent of the law,” Republican Sen. Greg Albritton, the bill's sponsor, told AL.com.
Rep. Neil Rafferty, the only openly gay member of the House, said the proposal was "born out of prejudice."
"It accommodates a handful of judges that couldn't get their personal feelings, couldn't check them at the door and couldn't do their jobs," Rafferty, D-Birmingham, said. He added the bill allows probate judges to skirt their responsibilities because of their personal beliefs.
About a half-dozen of Alabama’s 68 probate judges refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples after the legalization of gay marriage.
"I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, as do a lot of Alabamians," said Rep. Wes Allen, also a probate judge who stopped issuing marriage licenses in 2015.
“The probate judge has to sign the marriage license,” Allen added. "And effectively, by your signature going on that marriage license, basically in my opinion, you’re endorsing it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.