The Problems With Government Marriage

for government's sake you better have a licenseBike Rock/Foter.comLast year Scott Shackford explained the difficulty in divorcing government and marriage in the United States, which came down to the way common law has wed the two, especially in the case of family law. Nevertheless, it may be worth examining the activist role government plays in marriage—not the way the law protects the rights of family members and creates mechanisms for contract enforcement but the way in which government inserts itself into the process by which individuals choose to enter a marriage contract.

Every jurisdiction in the U.S. has some sort of government functionary with whom you can file for a marriage license. Anything the government says it needs to verify about the marriage should be accomplishable at that step. Is there a reason for the government to insert itself into the ways in which individuals and their communities choose to recognize and celebrate entry into marriage contracts?

Sometimes government is its own reason. In Virginia, for example, a judge has to appoint an officiant for you (occupational licensing taken to a new level). That recently led to a non-religious couple looking to get married being told by an officiant they were sent to by a judge that he wouldn’t marry them because they didn’t believe in God.

The court says the judge gave the couple the names of two officiants, one for religious ceremonies and one for civil ceremonies. The couple was looking to get married in the courthouse and have a ceremony later. Yet that couldn’t be accomplished without the government insisting they go to a government-recognized officiant and come back to have the government recognize their marriage.

In North Carolina, meanwhile, opponents of same-sex marriage have used the tools of government to ban it in the state. In order to enforce the ban, the state has made it a misdemeanor for a minister to marry someone who doesn’t have a marriage license. Several religious groups including the United Church of Christ and the Alliance of Baptists are suing to have the law overturned on First Amendment grounds.

Religious opponents of same sex marriage have mocked these group. “It’s both ironic and sad that an entire religious denomination and its clergy who purport holding to Christian teachings on marriage would look to the courts to justify their errant beliefs,” said Tami Fitzgerald, director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, apparently oblivious to the fact that his side has done the exact same thing. Just as government should not have the power to compel a church or other religious or civic organization to marry anyone they don’t want to, neither should it have the power to prohibit such organizations from marrying anyone they want to.

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  • GILMORE||

    "that couldn’t be accomplished without the government insisting they go to a government-recognized officiant and come back to have the government recognize their marriage."

    "This isn't the line for that. You need the other form. This form wasn't stamped. You need a stamp. Did you bring 3 forms of ID? This is only applicable to in-state residents. You need to pay a fee. You can't pay me the fee. This isn't the line for that."

  • ||

    I won't live in a town that robs men of the right to marry their cousins.

  • Homple||

    +2 Great Balls of Fire!

  • MJGreen||

    I prefer a town devoted to chastity, abstinence, and a flavorless mush I call root marm.

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    Paging Dr. Bo, Dr. Eddie, Dr. John.

  • SusanM||

    "Dr. John"? Not sure zydeco is called for here.

  • From the Tundra||

    Not sure zydeco is *ever* called for.

  • GILMORE||

    Dr John is not Zydeco.

    This is Zydeco

    If there isn't an accordian and a washboard, it may be cajun, but its not Zydeco.

    Dr John is more in the Professor Longhair tradition of afro-cuban new orleans rhythm and blues.

  • GILMORE||

    sorry, creole.

    whatever.

  • SusanM||

    I stand corrected.

  • Wasteland Wanderer||

    SugarFree is Zydeco?

  • GILMORE||

    (SF'd teh links!)

    *THIS* IS ZYDECO

    Its the stuff they typically play in TV commercials when referencing 'new orleans', because Tipitina, etc is harder to dance to

    technically, i think Zydeco is sourced to rural Louisiana rather than New Orleans proper.

  • BakedPenguin||

    It's the right place, but the wrong time.

  • From the Tundra||

    Oh, that was good.

  • ||

    Don't forget Dr. Zaius.

  • ||

    "You don't want to beat me or screw me?!? What kind of marriage is this? Bring a book."

  • -Umbriel-||

    Is this "officiant" thing new in Virginia? My wife and I married there 16 years ago (because it required neither a birth certificate nor a blood test), and it was just a matter filling out the forms for the license, and then going up to the Justice of the Peace's office for the ceremony.

  • ||

    From what I've read about the story it's very dependent on what county you are in there.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Is there a reason for the government to insert itself into the ways in which individuals and their communities choose to recognize and celebrate entry into marriage contracts?

    I dunno. Full faith and credit?

  • Paul.||

    If you ever go through a divorce, you'll find out how little faith people will have in your credit.

  • Almanian!||

    Is there a reason for the government to insert itself

    Your ass ain't gonna fuck itself, so....

  • Paul.||

    enforcement but the way in which government inserts itself into the process by which individuals choose to enter a marriage contract.

    I believe if you go down this rabbit hole, you'll be accused of mere cynicism. What of love? And what of government's affirmation of it?

  • Paul.||

    That recently led to a non-religious couple looking to get married being told by an officiant they were sent to by a judge that he wouldn’t marry them because they didn’t believe in God.

    I have been told that these are just the flaws and burrs which can be smoothed off with the proper people in charge, and the right regulations crafted.

  • R C Dean||

    not the way the law protects the rights of family members

    Lets not overlook the way the law defines and creates those rights.

    and creates mechanisms for contract enforcement

    You shouldn't need anything other than a plain vanilla civil court to enforce any contract. Including marriage contracts.

  • ||

    Lets not overlook the way the law defines and creates those rights.

    Lest you end up striking down your anti-sodomy laws in a wave of tolerance while leaving your anti-fornication laws on the books. Thereby, magically, turning the "oppressed" homosexuals into the oppressors.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Is it actually a crime for a cleric to solemnize a same-sex union in North Carolina?

    "...if North Carolina law were making it illegal for a clergy member to perform what he or she considers to be a marriage ceremony, the violation of religious liberty would be serious cause for concern. In fact, some have worried that Indiana marriage laws could be interpreted in such a fashion as to criminalize religious ceremonies.

    "But it looks like the statute under question in North Carolina is simply about making authorized officiants follow licensing rules for what the state considers valid marriages. There’s no indication that it actually is illegal to have a ceremony saying two men or two women are married. And, in fact, plaintiffs don’t point to anything the state has done to punish officiants at same-sex ceremonies. For some reason, reporters didn’t bother to ask for substantiation on these points. (See the New York Times, Religion News Service and BuzzFeed.)...

    "It’s pretty clear that North Carolina is only interested in licensing for marriage, as defined as *the union of one man and one woman.* You can see it right there where it says “perform a ceremony of marriage between a man and woman.”" [emphasis in original]

    http://thefederalist.com/2014/.....d-they-be/

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    "There’s no indication that it actually is illegal to have a ceremony saying two men or two women are married."

    Except, you know, the actual words of the two statutes.

  • ||

    No minister, officer, or any other person authorized to solemnize a marriage under the laws of this State shall perform a ceremony of marriage between a man and woman, or shall declare them to be husband and wife, until there is delivered to that person a license for the marriage of the said persons, signed by the register of deeds of the county in which the marriage license was issued or by a lawful deputy or assistant.

    Sounds like the phrasing of this fails to do anything other than ban ministers who are authorized to sign marriage licenses from performing non-licensed commitment ceremonies for monogamous straight couples.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    The suit alleges that that provision, when read alongside other provisions, creates the problem.

    http://uccfiles.com/pdf/complaint.pdf

  • GILMORE||

    So you're using an example of a dispute about what something means as evidence for an argument that there's no dispute about what it means?

    Razor sharp legal reasoning

  • eyeroller||

    The problem is, government treats married people and single people very differently. That has nothing to do with common law -- it's mostly about tax and benefit discrimination.

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