By Mary Sell

A bill that would end judge-issued marriage licenses in Alabama passed the Senate this week and now moves on to the House.

Senate Bill 377 from Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, would end the requirement that couples obtain marriage licenses from probate judges prior to a wedding. Instead, marriages would be a legal contract, witnessed by a clergy member, attorney or notary public, and filed with the state through the probate office.

Albritton has said his goal is to get the state out of peoples' lives and prevent Alabama from getting tangled in long-term lawsuits.

The bill passed the Senate 22-3 on Tuesday. One Senator abstained from voting and nine voted "P," not voting or not present. Sens. Tim Melson, R-Florence, and Paul Bussman, R-Cullman, were two of them.

Sens. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, voted for the bill.

Sens. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, and Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, were two of three "no" votes.

Both are military veterans and expressed concerns about a possible negative impact for military couples if they didn't have state-issued licenses.

"It might cause problems for our troops," Williams said later. "(A state-issued license) is more widely accepted."

The bill also changes copying fees charged to the public. According to a fiscal note on the legislation, it would increase costs on individuals -- and revenue for counties -- by changing copying fees.

It will increase receipts to the state General Fund by an estimated $780,000 annually by providing for an additional $20 fee on each marriage contract upon filing of the contract, according to the bill's fiscal note.

Albritton said his bill doesn't change the rules about the current requirements to get married, including age. And it doesn't change the state's ban on same-sex marriages. That may be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer.

(c)2015 The Decatur Daily