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Friday, March 7, 2014

Types of Marriage Available in the US

After discussing some of the ridiculous arguments against Same Sex Marriage in another post, I realized that not everyone understand's the differences between the different forms of marriage in this country. So I have decided to quickly define them here - for future reference if nothing else.


While I can not speak for other Countries, here in the US we offer FOUR forms of marriage...

The first of these forms of marriage is a LEGAL MARRIAGE.  This type of marriage requires a license and must be preformed by someone who is legally allowed to preform marriages - magistrates, mayors, judges, etc. They result in a marriage which is legally recognized by the state and the federal government. However, these marriages are not always accepted by religious authorities. (ex: The Catholic Church often does not recognize a legal marriage after an un-annulled divorce.)  These marriages require a legal divorce proceeding in order to end them.  Tax, medical and other legal benefits accompany such marriages.

The second form of marriage is a RELIGIOUS MARRIAGE. This type of marriage may be preformed by any religious leader (priest, priestess, preacher, etc.) and do NOT require a legal marriage license.  However, these marriages are NOT recognized by the state or federal government with the exception of states which honor "common law marriages."  Spouses are NOT awarded any form of tax, medical or other legal benefits based solely on their marriage.  (ex: Individuals beyond the first spouse in a Plural Marriage generally seek this form of marriage.)

The third form of marriage is a combination of both the LEGAL & RELIGIOUS.  This type of marriage generally involves some form of religious ceremony and may or may not be preformed by a religious leader of some kind.  These are marriages which are recognized fully by both religious and legal authorities & entities (state & fed. gov.).  These marriages carry with them all the of the rights, responsibilities and requirements of both legal and religious marriage forms. This is the most common form of Religious Marriage in the US.

The final form of marriage is slowly becoming a thing of the past. This is COMMON LAW MARRIAGE and is now only recognized in a small portion of states (currently only 5 states will recognize "new" marriages of this type, 4 more recognize cl marriages which took place before 1996, and 5 additional states recognize those which took place before 10/1991.) Common law marriage is a legally (and sometimes religiously) recognized marriage which has NO formality. How and when CL marriages become "legal marriages" varies from state to state.  Generally however there are two forms of CL marriage -- 1. A couple who live together and present themselves to the world as married.   2. A couple who have lived as a married couple and presented themselves as married prior to their marriage being legally accepted. (For example is one partner is underage)  A legal divorce is usually needed when ending such arraignments. However, the legal benefits and rights associated with this form of marriage vary by state.   (For more information on Common Law Marriage See HERE)


Clearly there are numerous ways which a couple can wed depending on what that couple's preferences are.  ALL forms of marriage listed here (with the exception of Common Law) take place in all 50 states. Those seeking marriages outside of what is legally accepted (same sex, plural, etc) or those who wish to exclude government involvement in their marriage (for whatever reason) have the option of seeking a marriage through their religious group.  And those who wish to wed without the involvement of any religious affiliation, have the option to seek a purely legal marriage with the knowledge that their marriage may not be accepted as valid by some religious organizations. Others may choose to involve both their religion and their government...  It's all up to (for the most part) the couple and their choices.

**Note that religious organizations can NOT be forced by law or anyone else, to recognize or accept any marriage which is not fully sanctioned by their group at the time it is entered in to.  This is not a point which I or anyone is arguing nor attempting to change.

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