Patricia Nell Warren

E-Marriage? You Heard Right

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | October 25, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, Politics
Tags: Adam Candeub, Mae Kukendall, marriage, MSU School of Law

My friend Bryan Wildenthal, who teaches constitutional law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, drew my attention to this startling proposal being put forth by two professors at Michigan State University. In a news release on MSU School of Law News, Adam Candeub and Mae Kuykendall "announce the creation of the Legal E-Marriage Project, a clearinghouse for legislative proposals to institute 'e-marriage.' Their proposal has the potential to alter the landscape of the marriage culture wars, as well as solve the problems that arise when a great distance separates couples who wish to marry."

Candeub and Kukendall talk about "breaking the marriage monopoly." Will the religious right boil over when they hear about this? You bet. More after the jump.

Read all about the new approach at MSU College of Law News.

The professors maintain a website with a full-dress analysis of how this could be done. Churches and clergy have got marriage tied up at state levels in a way that is surely unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It is past time for the grasping fingers of religion to be pried off marriage, so it can belong to the people once again, and be adapted by them in ways that work for the new millennium.

The professors' abstract on their idea can be found at this URL. Unfortunately you have to subscribe to the Social Science Research Network to get the whole paper. But the professors can be contacted at:

Adam Candeub
Michigan State University College of Law
368 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

Mae Kuykendall
Michigan State University College of Law
368 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

I look forward to reading comments about this idea.

Recent Entries Filed under Media:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 25, 2009 11:13 PM


How would this effect international marriages? A comparative point is that here in Thailand it was necessary for a man from UK to travel to Vietnam with his male partner to register their union at a British Embassy. Why they had to leave Thailand to do this when there is a perfectly good British embassy in Bangkok is murky to me, unless it violated a Thai statute here. Still, there are no same sex unions in Vietnam either.

The Thai national received a UK passport which will allow him to travel virtually anywhere in the world. His partner and he live in England where the UK born man has returned to college. The Thai export manager for a furniture company (here) now works happily for present as a waiter in a Thai restaurant in Leeds.

But they are together, and isn't love amazing!

I don't know for sure how this would affect international recognition of marriages. But presumably, if e-marriage was accepted in a growing number of U.S. states, most e-marriages would probably be accepted most anywhere that the current type of marriage arrangements are accepted.

How do churches have marriage tied up? Can't people just go to a justice of the peace to get married, no religion involved? Or are there some states where that's not the case?

Of course people can opt for a civil wedding. But that's not the issue.

Here's how U.S. clergy have marriage tied up: they have a legal privilege and power that many European countries have taken away from clergy, because of their huge concern over establishment of religion. Namely, in the U.S., clergy are granted the quasi-official power to conduct a marriage ceremony that is legal and binding, provided the marriage license is obtained from the state.

Whereas in these EU countries, the only marriage ceremony that is regarded as legal and binding is the civil ceremony. Church ceremonies (i.e. those conducted by clergy) are done, of course, but they do not legalize the couple's relationship. Indeed, couples must be married civilly BEFORE the church ceremony can take place.

U.S. clergy have enjoyed this privilege since our country's earliest days -- it's one of the major areas where established religion holds its power in America.

In my opinion, marriage law should be reformed nationwide to strip this power from clergy. No clergy should be granted any official power of any kind. To me, this is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

By the way, I want to make clear that the statement about "clergy tying up religion" reflects my own personal opinion, not that of the two MSU authors of this marriage study.

That rocks; I hope they can do it. Is it just to file for the licence online? That would be way more convenient than going down to city hall (esp if both parties aren't in the same state or country, which I guess is more or less the point.)

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 26, 2009 5:37 AM

Partnering, whatever form it takes, is a civil matter and except for questions of protecting the status of women and children it's really a matter best left to those involved in the partnership.

It is, as Candeub and Kuykendall point out, unconstitutional for cults to interfere in civil matters like marriage and other forms of partnering. But simply calling it unconstitutional is not enough. Their interference in civil life should be criminalized for the same reason that private armies, aka, gangs, are illegal.

They have no business conducting marriages or even commenting on civil matters while we're unfairly forced to pay their taxes. They should confine themselves to counting the number of demons that can dance on the head of a pin.

Take away the money they make on marriages and take away their tax exempt status and all the freeloading mullahs, priests, pastors, evangelists, imams and grand gazebos might be forced to become productive members of society and actually get jobs. Or they could become hermits and live in caves in the desert and mull over the odds of being possessed by pea soup vomiting demons and similar gawdstuff. Which is fine as long as they don't bother the real snakes.

In any case then we can all sing Hallelujah!

Heh. Cool.

Solves the issue of kinship, too...

I wonder how you'd do the blood test. Do other states do that too? They test you to be sure your children won't be disabled due to genetic diseases here.

Good question, Bil. But actually this might not be a potential problem for e-marriage, since the number of states requiring blood tests is on the wane. Check out the current listing at

Thai marriage registration varies depending on nationality. The Thai marriage can be solemnized with or without a Betrothal Ceremony in ritual manner and also through court. The betrothal ceremony is nothing but a promise to marry and in the form of an agreement.