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Under proposed bill, Idaho couples would no longer apply for marriage licenses

Idaho Sen. Scott Herndon (R, Sagle) at the State Capitol building on January 9, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
Otto Kitsinger
Idaho Sen. Scott Herndon (R, Sagle) at the State Capitol building on January 9, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

A bill that would remove the legal requirement for couples to obtain a marriage license from their respective county recorder’s office will be printed for the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee to consider at a full hearing.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle.

Herndon said that, in his work as a pastor in 2017, he came across couples who did not want to have the state as a participant in the process and essentially ask the state for permission to be married.

Herndon said at the beginning of his presentation of the bill that it is not intended to limit any individuals from getting married.

He said the bill has no political motivation and that his intent is to reduce bureaucratic regulation and answer concerns from constituents who don’t want the state involved.

“We have had numerous constituents, not just with religious philosophies but of different political philosophies that do not like the idea of the state being a participant,” Herndon said. “We’re not actually getting any added benefit by having the recorder be involved in that first step of the process, and in fact we are simplifying Idahoans’ lives by having them not have to make one extra stop along the way.”

Under Herndon’s proposed process, the officiant and county recorder would still be responsible for verifying certain facts about the age and any blood relation between a couple in order to meet legal qualifications to marry.

The recorder would still receive a marriage certificate from a qualified officiant and record it with the state’s vital statistics bureau. The fees for recording a marriage certificate would also stay the same, Herndon said.

Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, said she needed to hear that the legislation wasn’t attempting to restrict any legal marriages, particularly those between same-sex couples.

Herndon said the marriage certificate is a judicial document, so nothing should change unless judicial interpretation of the law changed.

“We don’t touch anything in this legislation about who is qualified to marry, and my expectation is that the judiciary is going to continue on with the same interpretations as they have today of law,” Herndon said.

At this stage of the process, the committee’s duty was to decide whether Herndon’s draft could be introduced as a bill.

Wintrow said she still has concerns related to IRS tax status and ensuring the marriage is not between family members, but that she would save those questions for a full hearing, which should take place in the coming weeks of the legislative session.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state.