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Stop the denial

There was a bit a few weeks ago about a state legislator introducing a bill that would replace marriage licenses with marriage registration. I didn’t make note of which state, but it did lead me down the research hole.

I didn’t expect the topic to be as complex as it is. You have the history of Utah, the American Civil War, and some really silly laws.

As a writer at SodaHead put it:

The reason any license throughout history has been instituted was so that it could be denied to some people.

There is a lot to that statement. I was tempted to blow it off. But whether it was the laws against “mixed” marriages, the banning of polygamous marriage in Utah, or after 1923, the whole history of marriage licenses in the U.S. can’t be separated from the history of telling people who they can and cannot marry.

Marriage licenses exist so that the licenses can be denied.

Read that again.

Marriage licenses exist so that the licenses can be denied.

It fails the parity test big time.

If marriage is a contract between consenting adults, then why should anyone else except those who agree to the contract get to define terms?

Now I’ve only researched this for a few days, not years. But I can’t find a single example of denying a marriage license that rests on anything other than “moral grounds.”

You know, the ones like the laws that said a “white” couldn’t marry a “black.” Or that a “white” couldn’t marry an “Indian.” Or that a “black” couldn’t marry a “Chinese.”

Or yes, that a man couldn’t marry more than one wife.

In every case, the assumption is that there is a “Higher Law” that is beyond “Man’s Law.” That one set of beliefs supersedes whatever else may be said.

The thing is, this assumption didn’t always exist.

Marriages used to be registered, not licensed.

The state didn’t control who you could and could not marry. Try as I might, I can’t find a single reason why the state should control marriage.

The only bit I would throw in is the same restriction as with any other contract. The parties should be consenting adults.

Beyond that, I can’t think of a single reason why marriage should be government controlled.

Poly marriages, year marriages, gay marriage, let’s register them all. And not license a single one.


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