Thursday, May 31, 2012

History Lesson: Marriage Licenses



Whenever I learn something new and interesting about American History I love to share it.  I've always taken for granted that marriage licenses were something that has always been a part of American law.  To my surprise, this is not the case.

Did you know that marriage licenses weren't required in the United States until after the Civil War?  Some states/colonies in the US did issue licenses as early as the 17th century, but did not require them.  Before that U.S. courts recognized the mere act of cohabitation as evidence of marriage.

Like minimum wage laws, marriage license requirements were born out of America's racist past.  "38 states prohibited whites from marrying blacks, “mulattos,” Japanese, Chinese, Indians, “Mongolians,” “Malays” or Filipinos. Twelve states would not issue a marriage license if one partner was a drunk, an addict or a “mental defect.” Eighteen states set barriers to remarriage after divorce."[1]  It wasn't until the mid 1900's that courts began invalidating laws that prevented interracial marriages. Even then, it took until 1967 for the Supreme Court of the United States to declare interracial marriage bans unconstitutional under the 14th amendment.

The more libertarian side of me says people should be able to do whatever they like so long as what they do does not infringe on the rights of others.  To this end, I really don't see how the recognition of same-sex marriage by the state hurts anyone.  Having said that, I don't really find myself in favor of same-sex marriage.  The conservative side of me believes the property and religious rights of churches should take precedence.

To that end, I think it is only appropriate, based on American History that the government get out of the marriage business.  Marriage should be left to the church.  If the government must regulate domestic partnerships for the purposes of property division, child support, etc. then they should restrict that regulation to the legal concept of domestic partnerships.

Leave domestic partnerships to the lawyers and marriages to the churches.

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