The Ugly History of the Marriage License in America

As the fevered handwringing and celebrations over the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling remains in full swing, I thought it may be a good time to reflect on what gay people really won. On one level they quite rightly won equal protection under the law and will be able to be issued marriage licenses in every state. Marriage was reclassified from a, “basic civil right”, to a “fundamental right”. That doesn’t sound much different, but it makes a huge difference. In my blog last week, I asked why we need government approval for a marriage in the first place. What is the point of a marriage license? Well, in an effort to answer my own question, I did a little digging. What I found out was horrifying.

In order to fully explain what I mean, let’s start with marriage before the marriage license. Yes! There is such a thing! Let’s go way back to the 1600’s where most of our laws concerning marriage were inherited from England. The ugliest of these laws were called anti-miscegenation laws, or laws that prevented interracial marriages. These laws persisted for over 300 years. They were prevalent in almost every state in the union. Miscegenation laws were upheld numerous times even after the 14th amendment was passed. In the famous Supreme Court case of 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson, the concept of “separate but equal” became the law of the land. This allowed the states that still clung to anti-miscegenation laws to renew their fervor against interracial marriage. The argument went something like: Everyone is free to marry, just marry in your own race. Which sounds eerily similar to: Gay people can get married, just marry someone of the opposite sex.

Up until this point in American history, around the 1920’s, there was no such thing as a marriage license. The states invented them as a way to dictate who could and could not get married for the purpose of making sure blacks, whites, Asians and Indians didn’t mix. That’s right. Marriage licenses were invented as a way to stop white people from marrying black people. Because they couldn’t get a license, interracial couples who would have been considered married before the marriage license was available, ceased to be married. They lost inheritance rights, medical rights and all other benefits of common law marriage. The issuers of marriage licenses were considered the gate keepers, charged with keeping the white race pure.

Laws against interracial marriage persisted long after segregation was deemed unconstitutional in 1957. It wasn’t until 1967 that anti-miscegenation laws were wiped off the books in the southern states. Alabama didn’t bother to take it off the books until 2000. Thanks for that Alabama, appreciate it. In fact, I live in Florida, where until 1967 an interracial marriage could get you 10 years in prison. Thank goodness for Alabama I guess.

My question for gay people is this: If this is what you won, did you really win? Really? What I see that you won is to be able to claim the government can now have dominion over your marriage just like it does of straight peoples’ marriages. If you are really looking for equality might I suggest joining in the fight to abolish the marriage license? Look at it this way, by what right does the government have the right to approve or deny who we want to form a life with? A license is permission. Do you really need permission to love someone enough to spend your life with them?

I get it. There are certain benefits to being married. Social Security, Medical, Legal, survivorship rights. Without a marriage license how could you be sure to reap the benefits and rewards of marriage? How about you get married to whomever you want, register that marriage with the state and receive a certificate of marriage that is recognized by the federal government. Like they did before the government found a way to control who gets married. How about you dictate to them who you married, not the other way around. The state and federal government should not be able to dictate who you marry. Period.

We are all individuals and the government should treat us all the same. Marriage is necessary to protect certain aspects of society like children and surviving spouses. The only reason that we need to register as a couple at all is for the government benefits. The avenue’s to gain access to these benefits are not contingent on the marriage license. There would be no need to make any real changes to the system we already have in place. You would notify the same government offices, in the same way as you would right now.

Let’s put the power back into the hands of the people and get rid of the last vestiges of a racist, bigoted practice that is the marriage license. Little did you know that the license you are clamoring for and that is filed away in millions of homes around the country has roots more ugly than the confederate flag that can no longer be purchased on Amazon.com. Ironic, isn’t it.

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25 thoughts on “The Ugly History of the Marriage License in America

  1. Glad you posted this. You may also find it interesting to know these fun facts:

    The right for women to vote was passed in June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920. The 19th amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Alice Paul set the series of this event into motion by going to prison and using a hunger strike to convince President Woodrow Wilson to cave to the idea that woman deserved the right to vote.

    Cohabitation in the United States is actually illegal in many states to this day, including Florida.

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    • If you are a Christian and believe in the bible and God, then it is clear that marriage licence had no part in two people being together. The Bible also states; parahhased: when God put two people together let now man come between. Marriage licence is just like salivary a way to keep up with blacks. That was just one way.

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  2. Thank you for bringing to light what our right to love who we love and become united with who we want is all about. It is not about someone telling us that we have this right, it is about already having it.

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  3. “The truth is just Le carnaval miroir, un cirque à dissimuler, de la fumée et des miroirs, une magiciens et tour de main un triomphe peut être trouvé dans la vérité…

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  4. […] An example of this can be found in the battle over the definition of a state-issued marriage license; should it be between a man and a woman or can be also be two people of the same-sex? The authority of the state to license marriage, which Christianity teaches to be a covenant between a man and woman in the presence of God, is simply accepted by many without question as legitimate, when the entire concept was invented to prevent intercultural marriages. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good article, but I would beg to differ with the following statement:

    “The only reason that we need to register as a couple at all is for the government benefits. The avenue’s to gain access to these benefits are not contingent on the marriage license.”

    This is not factual. The avenues to gain access to these benefits is very much contingent on the marriage license. Surviving spouses must show a certified marriage license to gain access to Social Security benefits – either survivor’s benefits or their portion of their spouses Social Security benefit.

    A Certificate of Marriage is not recognized by the federal government. Only a State Certified Marriage Certificate is recognized by Social Security. Please do not give people false information.

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  6. […] As Murray Rothbard once said, “Rights are universal, but their enforcement must be local.” As per Hans-Herman Hoppe’s argumentation ethics, if the person in question is capable of arguing, then they enjoy private property rights. Since “society” (and all demographics thereof) are made up of individuals, those said individuals are ultimately responsible for defending their own rights. Governments cannot protect the rights of minorities, because the government does not protect the property rights of anyone in the first place. In summation, government is the entity that instituted race slavery, and also marriage licensure to prevent interracial marriage. […]

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  7. […] As Murray Rothbard once said, “Rights are universal, but their enforcement must be local.” As per Hans-Herman Hoppe’s argumentation ethics, if the person in question is capable of arguing, then they enjoy private property rights. Since “society” (and all demographics thereof) are made up of individuals, those said individuals are ultimately responsible for defending their own rights. Governments cannot protect the rights of minorities, because the government does not protect the property rights of anyone in the first place. In summation, government is the entity that instituted race slavery, and also marriage licensure to prevent interracial marriage. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  8. […] As Murray Rothbard once said, “Rights are universal, but their enforcement must be local.” As per Hans-Herman Hoppe’s argumentation ethics, if the person in question is capable of arguing, then they enjoy private property rights. Since “society” (and all demographics thereof) are made up of individuals, those said individuals are ultimately responsible for defending their own rights. Governments cannot protect the rights of minorities, because the government does not protect the property rights of anyone in the first place. In summation, government is the entity that instituted race slavery, and also marriage licensure to prevent interracial marriage. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  9. […] As Murray Rothbard once said, “Rights are universal, but their enforcement must be local.” As per Hans-Herman Hoppe’s argumentation ethics, if the person in question is capable of arguing, then they enjoy private property rights. Since “society” (and all demographics thereof) are made up of individuals, those said individuals are ultimately responsible for defending their own rights. Governments cannot protect the rights of minorities because the government does not protect the property rights of anyone in the first place. In summation, government is the entity that instituted race slavery and also marriage licensure to prevent interracial marriage. […]

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  10. Want a brown world? Here you go

    Bi racial children can Not receive organ transplants! They die within hours. Natures way. The bible makes it so clear IF you read…
    see: Tobit 4:12

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  12. In order to get a marriage license it is required that both parties to the marriage, whether straight or gay, must prove they are not already married . Is that not a good idea?

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  13. You didn’t answer my question, extactly what year was the first marriage license issued between two slaves?

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