The Electric Commentary

Friday, October 12, 2007

Are my friends married?

Two of my friends were married last year in Pennsylvania. They came from families of varying faiths, and rather than pick one over the other, they had their ceremony conducted by an uncle. He was ordained by the Universal Life Church via the internet, and performed a ceremony in the past. And having a family member involved in the ceremony, I would think, would only enhance the occasion.

They are both great friends who truly love each other. Unfortunately, they may not be married:

A first-of-a-kind case in Pennsylvania has called the validity of an untold number of marriages into question, prompting many committed couples to resolve the issue by simply re-taking their vows even though it hasn't yet been upheld on appeal.

Those who don't redo their original ceremony face troubling questions about survivor benefits and other legal issues if one spouse dies or the couple separates before the issue is resolved, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. The case that caused the uproar was brought by a 21-year-old York County woman who wanted out of her one-year marriage. Because it had been performed by a minister who was ordained on the Internet, however, her lawyer thought it was invalid under state law—and the judge agreed.

Although it won't be binding legal precedent even in York County until it's upheld on appeal, many couples are remarrying just to end any uncertainty about their marital status. Meanwhile, David Cleaver, who serves as solicitor for the statewide Association of Registers of Wills and Clerks of Orphans Court, says it should serve as a wake-up call to clerks in all 67 Pennsylvania counties that they need to be sure the officiant who signs a marriage certificate is legally qualified to do so.

Especially because many couples today are married by an individual who isn't a minister, rabbi or other recognized official at an established bricks-and-mortar religious facility, uncertainty could be an issue for many Pennsylvanians, the newspaper writes. In Bucks County, near Philadelphia, at least 45 couples applied for new marriage licenses after Register of Wills Barbara Reilly urged those whose marital status might be questioned to do so at a news conference last month.

This is truly ridiculous. Having clear marriage law really is essential, as it has an affect on all of our largest investments. What if you bought a home together? What about your will? Life insurance? Inflicting this kind of uncertainty on people is cruel. It's expensive. And really, what business is this of the government anyway.

Now my friends have to deal with a bunch of bureaucratic garbage because, get this, the state can't decide what is and is not a legitimate religion. Call me crazy, but I'm fairly certain that the state isn't supposed to be doing that.

Lastly, these friends managed to have the Phillie Phanatic appear at their wedding. (The real one, not some cheap knock-off.) Shouldn't that count for something?


  • Eh. So they have to take some extra steps to legally protect their union. Thousands of gays have to do that every year too. Welcome to the club kids.

    And enjoy your privileges, Paul. At least you recognize how good you've got it and how wrong it is to make gays jump through hoops for the same.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:28 PM  

  • I'm actually fairly certain that ridiculous bans of gay marriage probably contributed to this problem. Every state has attempted to put extra restrictions on their matrimonial laws, and those have affected gays and straights alike.

    It is wrong to make gays jump through all of those hoops, but this situation may be slightly worse for those affected by it, believe it or not. It's shitty to be denied those rights, but it's another thing entirely to think you have those rights until the moment that you need to rely on them. At least if society is openly screwing you, you know where you stand.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 12:05 AM  

  • I think it would be much better if the government only had the power to grant civil unions. Gay and straight couples would just go to a courthouse and file the necessary paperwork. If you want to get married in a long and elaborate ceremony at a church, mosque, synagogue, etc, then more power to you.

    This would be far more respectful to the separation of church and state, not to mention avoid the troubles that you talk about in this article.

    Finally, the energy put into the gay marriage amendments (which is just election cycle pandering to religious conservatives and homophobic people in general) could be spend on far more important issues.

    By Anonymous Tim Roth, at 5:37 PM  

  • In Virginia, there is a requirement that there be an official ceremony by a valid "official" and at least one witness. However, there is also a curing statute, so that you are estopped from trying to get the marriage annulled if you thought and acted like it was a real marriage. That seems to be a fairly reasonable solution.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:56 PM  

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