This appeared in The Gadsden Times, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2118
To join together this man and woman in Holy matrimony… what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. We have all heard it. It is moving. It is magical. It is going away—in Alabama, at least. In the future, the law will hold, that the couple execute a contract, sort of like buying a house, submit that contract to a clerk in the Office of Probate Judge, pay a fee, and walk out married. Done.
“All requirements to obtain a marriage license by the State of Alabama are hereby abolished and repealed. The requirement of a ceremony of marriage to solemnize the marriage is abolished.”
The Senate approved SB13 in January by a large margin and the house is poised to pass the bill and send it to Governor Ivey for her signature. We are told that its passage is practically a given, maybe the first week of the session, which begins Feb. 6.
"Some see this as a way to protect local probate judges from being forced to issue gay marriage licenses, which is both morally and politically problematic for a lot of them,” Todd Stacy, the publisher of the Alabama Daily News, said of the Alabama bill. It appears that of 67 probate judges, there are eight who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same gender couples and, to prevent discrimination claims, have ceased issuing licenses to anyone, so couples must drive to the next county—not a huge deal, except the fees go to the neighboring county. This law is for those judges, who will, of course, eventually leave office anyway.
So “marriage” as we have always known it will forever change in our state, and “weddings” in the strict sense of the word will cease to exist. Because, according to Wikipedia: “A ‘wedding’ is a ceremony where two people or a couple are united in marriage”. Not in this state. A “wedding” by definition, will be impossible here. All marriages will happen in a courthouse.
So, for a while, no one knows how long, we may still hear “I now pronounce you Husband and Wife”. But it will be a farce, for they were married when they left the courthouse last week. Or maybe they will be married one day the next week. But it won’t be a wedding. You see, you cannot get married in a ceremony on Saturday, but only when the courthouse is open.
Some will still go through the motions and have a ceremony, though it is unseen what the minister will say, or if they will have a minister at all, or if they will exchange vows, or if they will just have a reception or a party.
But many fear wedding ceremonies in Alabama will fade away, like Sunday lunch at Grandma’s house or family dinner at the dinner table. The tradition will change, and take with it a vibrant part of Alabama’s economy.
The well intended lawmakers, in an effort to give cover to a few probate judges, will wipe out a fairly large part of our state’s economy. Was it unintended consequences, or just the price they’re willing to pay to not be accused of being “pro gay marriage”, as one congressman put it? This writer is not taking a side for or against that controversial issue, but will point out that under SB13, probate judges are not allowed to refuse the acceptance of any properly completed contract, regardless of gender.
The price of SB13: There are over 300,000 businesses in the wedding industry in the United States, employing 1.2 million people with total revenue in 2016 of $72 billion. The national average cost of a wedding day in 2016 shot up to $35,329, according to a survey by The Knot (a leading wedding website). There are over 2,500 wedding related businesses in Alabama. Most are small; usually mom and pop operations, and they employ thousands more. Most operate on a thin profit margin and even a small drop in income would cause the doors to close. All pay sales tax and property tax and income tax. After SB 13, hundreds of those businesses will close. Thousands will lose their jobs. Millions will be lost in state and local tax revenue.
Politicians are eager to show up for photos at a ribbon cutting when a new business opens. How eagerly will they claim this carnage? And how will they justify it? Cover for eight probate judges? Really?
We are Don and Susan Boozer, owners of Applewood Farm, a wedding venue in St. Clair County. We are forming a group to re-write this bill to retain the requirement for all marriages to be solemnized by a ceremony performed by a minister, judge or officiate. All wedding professionals are encouraged to attend. If this bill becomes law in its current form, would it effect your business a little, a lot, or do great harm? Why find out? We can fix it, but we need your participation.
Spread the word. Anyone involved in the wedding industry should be concerned about this impending law and attend this meeting Tuesday September 10, 7:00 pm. The meeting will be in the Huntsville area, though the location has not been determined. Contact us or watch this space.
We cannot defeat SB13 without your help. The most important thing we can do immediately is engage in political action. Our voices should be heard. Join us Sept. 10 to learn more about the history of this Bill, what is driving it, and what you can do.