Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznare
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Celebrity and Minor Marriage

From the NY Daily News:

Age ain't nothing but a number - just ask 51-year-old actor Doug Hutchison.

Hutchison, whose film and TV credits include "The Green Mile," "Lost" and "24," said "I do" to 16-year-old aspiring country star Courtney Alexis Stodden on May 20 in Las Vegas.

While the couple's 35-year age difference has already raised many eyebrows, the newlyweds insist they are truly in love.

According to the Clark County, Nevada Marriage Bureau, applicants wanting to obtain a marriage license must be at least 18 years of age. Since Stodden, a former beauty pageant queen, is considered a minor, the only way her marriage could be considered legal is if one of her parents gave consent.

And by the sound of it, Stodden had both her father and mother's blessing.

"Every father can only pray to have such a man behind their daughter," dad Alex Stodden told

"Courtney is one of the most level headed girls out there and I'm not just saying that because she's my daughter. Doug is the nicest man I've ever met in my life," he said.

"We are totally supportive of this marriage," the blond beauty's mom, Krista Stodden, also told Radar. "Doug is a wonderful man and we love him."

Read more here.


June 21, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 4, 2011

"When Lady Gaga Knows Your Name"

I just love this New York Times story about what happens when Lady Gaga asks fans to pressure legislators on same-sex marriage.


April 4, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 11, 2011


The concept of work-spouses has seem to become established--is it a form of cheating?

From CNN:

Forty-five-year-old Patty Lewis and 37-year-old Tom Brister know a thing or two about this. The technology consultants each have their own legally married spouses, but have considered themselves "spouses" at work for nearly four years.

"From a psychological and emotional perspective, he is the person I can tell anything to, and share any perspective with, no matter how mean-spirited or politically incorrect," said Lewis.

"Patty hears many of the same things reserved for my spouse, including who is annoying me at work, my true assessment of some of the projects at work and my current satisfaction level with my job," said Brister.

The pair met four years ago at their company in Northbrook, Illinois, and say they know each other so well that they can finish each other's sentences in the context of work -- and know details about each other like how they like their coffee and what they like to eat when ordering at a restaurant.

The work spouse team said their friendship has helped them with their careers and is "not just a water-cooler relationship" used to pass the time at work.

Read more here.


March 11, 2011 in Current Affairs, Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Maryland Same Sex Marriage Debate

From the Baltimore Sun:

The state senate has just one bill on its agenda Wednesday: The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Act.

"We've cleared the desk," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller told senators Tuesday morning. "We have nothing else to do tomorrow aside from that bill."

Debate on the contentious measure to allow same-sex couples to marry is expected to run into Wednesday evening and carry over to the following day. Miller has told senators to clear their weekend schedules in case an expected filibuster extends into Saturday.

The bill, which would repeal Maryland's definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, is widely expected to clear the senate — but there are no guarantees. Twenty-four senators have declared their support for the measure, the minimum needed for final passage.

Advocates in the House of Delegates say they are close to having the votes for final passage in that chamber, and Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he will sign the bill if it passes.

Opponents had seven amendments prepared as of Tuesday morning, and were considering others.

Discussion about them could take hours, but might not be as lengthy as many have predicted. Typically, opponents gearing up for a major floor fight will prepare hundreds of amendments.

Read more here.


February 23, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Best Marriages

The New York Times ran an interesting piece on marriage recently:

The notion that the best marriages are those that bring satisfaction to the individual may seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t marriage supposed to be about putting the relationship first?

Not anymore. For centuries, marriage was viewed as an economic and social institution, and the emotional and intellectual needs of the spouses were secondary to the survival of the marriage itself. But in modern relationships, people are looking for a partnership, and they want partners who make their lives more interesting.

Read more here.


January 12, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Civil Unions Over Marriage?

From the NY Times:

Some are divorced and disenchanted with marriage; others are young couples ideologically opposed to marriage, but eager to lighten their tax burdens. Many are lovers not quite ready for old-fashioned matrimony.

Whatever their reasons, and they vary widely, French couples are increasingly shunning traditional marriages and opting instead for civil unions, to the point that there are now two civil unions for every three marriages.

When France created its system of civil unions in 1999, it was heralded as a revolution in gay rights, a relationship almost like marriage, but not quite. No one, though, anticipated how many couples would make use of the new law. Nor was it predicted that by 2009, the overwhelming majority of civil unions would be between straight couples.

It remains unclear whether the idea of a civil union, called a pacte civil de solidarité, or PACS, has responded to a shift in social attitudes or caused one. But it has proved remarkably well suited to France and its particularities about marriage, divorce, religion and taxes — and it can be dissolved with just a registered letter.

“We’re the generation of divorced parents,” explained Maud Hugot, 32, an aide at the Health Ministry who signed a PACS with her girlfriend, Nathalie Mondot, 33, this year. Expressing a view that researchers say is becoming commonplace among same-sex couples and heterosexuals alike, she added, “The notion of eternal marriage has grown obsolete.”

France recognizes only “citizens,” and the country’s legal principles hold that special rights should not be accorded to particular groups or ethnicities. So civil unions, which confer most of the tax benefits and legal protections of marriage, were made available to everyone. (Marriage, on the other hand, remains restricted to heterosexuals.) But the attractiveness of civil unions to heterosexual couples was evident from the start. In 2000, just one year after the passage of the law, more than 75 percent of civil unions were signed between heterosexual couples. That trend has only strengthened since then: of the 173,045 civil unions signed in 2009, 95 percent were between heterosexual couples.

“It’s becoming more and more commonplace,” said Laura Anicet, 24, a student who signed a PACS last month with her 29-year-old boyfriend, Cyril Reich. “For me, before, the PACS was for homosexual couples.”

As with traditional marriages, civil unions allow couples to file joint tax returns, exempt spouses from inheritance taxes, permit partners to share insurance policies, ease access to residency permits for foreigners and make partners responsible for each other’s debts. Concluding a civil union requires little more than a single appearance before a judicial official, and ending one is even easier.

It long ago became common here to speak of “getting PACSed” (se pacser, in French). More recently, wedding fairs have been renamed to include the PACS, department stores now offer PACS gift registries and travel agencies offer PACS honeymoon packages.

Read the full article here.


January 9, 2011 in Current Affairs, Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Illinois Becomes 11th State to Adopt Civil Unions

Illinois legislation passed yesterday will make civil unions possible effective June 1, 2011:

Illinois next year will become the 11th state to sanction same-sex couples, after the Legislature's passage Wednesday of a "civil union" bill that supporters say is a landmark human rights advancement and opponents say is an attack on traditional marriage.

The law will take effect June 1, after it's signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn, a vocal supporter.

Its passage, after years of debate, spawned political and religious showdowns around Illinois Wednesday — including a rare public tiff between the governor's office and the Catholic Church.

The bill specifies that it doesn't create a new class of marriage. But it will allow unrelated adults, regardless of gender, to share "the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses."

Among the practical applications will be the same health insurance rights for partners as those now extended to spouses; the right to make medical decisions for an incapacitated partner; and estate and property rights after the death of a partner or dissolution of a relationship.

The bill passed the Senate 32-24-1 after passing the House by a one-vote margin a day before.

Read more here.


December 2, 2010 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Marriage Rates

From the Wall Street Journal:

Marriage rates among young adults have been dropping for decades. But data released Tuesday by the Census Bureau show that for the first time the proportion of people between the ages of 25 and 34 who have never been married exceeded those who were married in 2009—46.3% versus 44.9%, according to an analysis by Mark Mather, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau, a non-profit research organization in Washington.

According to the article, “High divorce rates, rising co-habitation and a tendency to delay marriage are main factors,” read it here




October 4, 2010 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Meaning of Marriage

Every day, the meaning of marriage is pondered by the “Stokes unit,” New York’s version of marriage interviews conducted when a citizen seeks a green card for a foreign spouse.  Read more here.


July 7, 2010 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Civil Unions Approved by Hawaii Legislature; Will Governor Veto?

Legislation approving civil unions was approved, somewhat unexpectedly, in the Hawaii legislature last week.  Now all speculation turns toward whether Republican governor Linda Lingle will veto the bill.

Lingle has long avoided saying whether she would veto the measure or allow it to become law. She has until

"She's kept it very close to the vest," said Dennis Arakaki, executive director of the Hawaii Family Forum and Hawaii Catholic Conference. "She won't let us know how she feels about it. Now we'll know. ... The ball is in her court."

He's sending e-mails to churches and text messages to supporters urging them to contact the governor's office to let her know how they feel about the issue.

Civil union backers will send handwritten letters and postcards to Lingle in addition to e-mails and phone calls asking her to approve the legislation, said Tony Wagner, Western Regional Field Director for the Human Rights Campaign.

"It's going to be important to keep up the pressure on the governor in order to demonstrate that there is support for this bill and for treating all families equally," Wagner said.

In addition, civil union supporters will likely take to the streets to wave signs as drivers pass by, he said.

Lingle has sent mixed signals: She wanted lawmakers to drop the issue because the state had more pressing budget matters to deal with, but she also said representatives should have put their votes on the record when they postponed a decision on the measure in January.

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor this fall, wants the bill vetoed.

"If the Legislature wanted to establish the equivalent of same-sex marriage, they should have put it on the ballot for the people to decide," Aiona said in a statement. "This bill should not be allowed to become law."

Although Lingle has until July 6 to make a decision, her intentions will be known sooner. She must send the Legislature a list of bills that she'll potentially veto by June 22. Measures not on that list would become law, either with or without her signature.

Read more here.


May 4, 2010 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Impeachment of AG Over Same Sex Marriage Opinion?

The New York Times is reporting on the attempt of a Maryland state legislator to impeach the state attorney general for issuing an opinion saying that Maryland would recognize same sex marriages validly perfected elsewhere.  Read more here.

Am I the only one depressed by the politicization of this issue?


April 6, 2010 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Gender Determined at Birth or by Birth Certificate?

The latest news story on the question of whether gender (for marriage purposes) is determined at birth or by what is recorded on the birth certificate:

Danielle Pauline Severson takes female hormones, dresses and acts like a woman and plans to have sex reassignment surgery so she physically looks like a woman.

Yet the pre-operative transgender female, who was born Dana Paul Severson, will have to tie the knot to a woman in California.

After being jilted by officials in Nevada—which bills itself as the wedding capital of the world—Severson and Rebecca Love were granted a marriage license Wednesday by officials in Severson's hometown of Redding, Calif.

While both states prohibit same-sex marriage, officials in California said the two qualified for the license because Severson's birth certificate lists her as a man. But officials in Nevada nixed the request, saying they consider Severson a woman because that's what her driver's license says.

Shannon Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco, said the circumstances of the case are unique.

But he said transgender people are often caught between conflicting state laws and policies about how to determine a person's gender.

"The same person may be considered legally a male in one state and legally female in another," Minter said. "This is a very painful and confusing situation for trans people."

Shasta County (Calif.) Clerk Cathy Darling said her office issued the marriage license only after consulting with the California Department of Health.

"The state told us to reference the birth certificate," she said. "It's a legal gray area. State law doesn't speak to this."

"There's case law to support that the gender of an individual at birth remains that person's gender regardless of what procedures are taken," he said. "But there's case law to support that at a certain point in this procedure the gender of an individual would change."

Lee Rowland, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Nevada, said her group is determined to do away with statewide bans on same-sex marriages.

"Until that day comes, however, we believe it is appropriate for clerks to rely on the gender on a government-issued ID to avoid the risk of invasively investigating someone's gender," she said.

Read more here.


March 15, 2010 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Catholic Charities Refuses Health Coverage to Spouses of New Employees

Timed to coincide with today's legalization of same sex marriage in Washington, D.C., the Catholic church is taking a hard line in an effort to remain "faithful to its teachings."

Employees at Catholic Charities were told Monday that the social services organization is changing its health coverage to avoid offering benefits to same-sex partners of its workers -- the latest fallout from a bitter debate between District officials trying to legalize same-sex marriage and the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.

"We looked at all the options and implications," said the charity's president, Edward J. Orzechowski. "This allows us to continue providing services, comply with the city's new requirements and remain faithful to the church's teaching."

Catholic Charities, which receives $22 million from the city for social service programs, protested in the run-up to the council's December vote to allow same-sex marriage, saying that it might not be able to continue its contracts with the city, including operating homeless shelters and facilitating city-sponsored adoptions. Being forced to recognize same-sex marriage, church officials said, could make it impossible for the church to be a city contractor because Catholic teaching opposes such unions.

Read more here.


March 3, 2010 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Black Community Crucial in D.C. Gay Marriage Debate

Gay and lesbian couples will soon be able to marry in Washington, but the debate over same-sex marriage has sounded different here, with references to interracial marriage and Martin Luther King.

Over the past year, both sides have courted the support of Washington's black community, a majority of the city's 600,000 residents and one traditionally perceived as opposed to same-sex marriage.

"In D.C., outreach to African-Americans wasn't part of the campaign. It was the campaign," said Michael Crawford, the leader of a pro-same-sex union group, D.C. For Marriage.

Crawford, who is black, said other residents weren't ignored, but his group and others weighed the city's racial makeup in planning their message. That made the debate here different than in other places that have considered gay marriage — places like California, where about 7 percent of residents are black, or Maine, where 1 percent are. Voters in both states struck down gay marriage laws.

To speak to voters in D.C., supporters drew parallels to Martin Luther King Jr.'s advocacy for equal rights. They said same-sex marriage bans would one day seem as ridiculous as the interracial marriage bans overturned by the Supreme Court in 1967. Opponents, meanwhile, ran an anti-gay marriage ad on the radio station of Howard University, a historically black college. And both sides worked hard to curry favor with black leaders and churches.

Getting black voters' support for gay marriage wasn't necessarily easy. A widely used exit poll conducted for The Associated Press during the 2008 election found 70 percent of black California voters approved of a measure banning gay marriage, compared with 49 percent of white voters. A poll in Florida, where residents voted on a similar issue that year, had comparable support from black voters, who make up about 16 percent of the state's population.

Black supporters of gay marriage in Washington disputed those numbers and argued that black voters were unfairly blamed for pushing the California measure to success. Opponents have argued the numbers were true and relevant, suggesting that D.C. voters would certainly reject gay marriage if given the opportunity.

But lawmakers, not voters, legalized gay marriage in Washington, and the measure always had the support of black D.C. Council members. Five black members on the 13-member council ultimately supported it, though the only "no" votes came from two black members in heavily black districts.

Read the full Associated Press story here.


March 2, 2010 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Academia & Marriage Go Together Like a Horse & Carriage

  2001                                                Married                Single 

American public                              57%                        43%

All faculty members                        76%                        24% (A)

American men                                 59%                       41%

Male faculty members                     82%                        18% (B)

American women                             55%                        45%

Female faculty members                  66%                        34% (C) 

(A) Unmarried living with partner(*): 5% (within Single category) 

(B) Unmarried living with partner 4% 

(C) Unmarried living with partner 7% 


See the Faculty Lounge blog post here.

These marriage numbers for academics, however, will likely go through the roof if a dating service is implemented at law conferences…  Read more about this (facetious) suggestion at the TaxProf Blog, accessible here.  


February 20, 2010 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

If You Like Pina Coladas and Getting Caught in the Rain…

…oh, never mind, because any woman’s chances for love in China are nearly surefire, where the one-child policy will yield a 24M bride shortage by 2020.

From CNN:

Sex-specific abortions have led to a large male population born since the 1980s, the China Daily newspaper said, citing a study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The gender imbalance means that the next decade will see many intergenerational marriages: young men married to women much older than them, the study said.

China's Communist Party implemented the one-child rule three decades ago, amid fears that the country would not be able to feed a skyrocketing population.  The policy has prevented about 400 million births, China Daily said.

Read the rest here.


February 7, 2010 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Reform of Royal Marriage Rules on the Horizon?

Rules governing royal marriages and the succession to the throne of the UK breach the European Convention on Human Rights, an influential parliamentary committee has said.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) said that laws barring members of the Royal Family from marrying Roman Catholics were contrary to the Convention, while the rule that male heirs take precedence over older sisters in the succession was "arguably" also a breach.

The cross-party committee of MPs and peers urged the Government to adopt proposals put forward by Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris to remove religious discrimination against Catholics in relation to royal marriages, and discrimination against women in relation to the succession.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown last year indicated sympathy with calls for reform, telling the House of Commons that "most people recognise the need for change" in the regime put in place by the 1701 Act of Settlement.

Read more here.


January 20, 2010 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Divorced at 10 Years Old

The BBC reports on a Yemeni child bride who fought for, and miraculously received, a divorce from her 30 year-old husband.

She had not even known she was to be married on the day of her wedding. With her father's consent, she was brought by her future husband to his village where his family laid on a big ceremony. Afterwards, when she saw everyone leaving, she wanted them to drive her back home but was told by her new husband that she was married.

She took advantage of the absence of her father, her mother, her stepmother and her elder brothers to take a bus and a taxi to the court. The judge took her home to his own house and family where she stayed for three days, being treated kindly. He then sent her with an escort to her parents' house. Her parents were not in but one of her sisters passed on the message that she had gone to court for a divorce.

After her father and her new husband came to the court themselves, they were arrested and sentenced to 10 days and 15 days in prison respectively. A few weeks later, the judge granted the divorce. Her husband was led into the court for the ruling but said nothing to her.

Read the full story here.


January 5, 2010 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Same Sex Marriage Bill Approved by D.C. Council

The D.C. Council gave final approval Tuesday to a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, setting off a wave of excitement in the gay community even as opponents vow to continue the fight on Capitol Hill. The bill, approved by a vote of 11 to 2, will now go to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who is expected to sign it before Christmas. The bill will become law in the spring if it survives a 30-day legislative review period.

See the Washington Post story here.


December 17, 2009 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pouncy: "Marriage and Domestic Partnership: Rationality and Inequality"

Charles R. P. Pouncy (Florida International University College of Law) has posted "Marriage and Domestic Partnership:  Rationality and Inequality," forthcoming in the Temple Political & Civil Rights Law Review, on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The efforts of gay and lesbian communities to regularize their relations resulted in competing claims for same-sex marriageand domestic partnerships. This essay argues that the debate between these two forms of organization is tainted by a reliance on analyses provided by neoclassical economic theory. If the decision about which of these institutions presents the best way to structure the relationships of lesbians and gays is dominated by the notion of economic rationality then marriage seems clearly preferable. However, when the focus is changed from the economic interests of the individual to the health and well being of queer communities domestic partnership emerges as the preferable way of organizing gay and lesbian relationships. Thus, the paper argues that queer communities should invest their resources in the development of domestic partnership as a societal institution. Adopting marriageis more likely to support the male privilege and heterosexism inherent in marriage, and will erode the processes of queer culture.


December 3, 2009 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)