Michigan, Politics, Things That Make You Go Hmmm — December 14, 2009 at 12:10 pm

E-marriage: A new option for same-sex couples?


This morning Michigan Public Radio did a segment on a new proposal being put forth by Michigan State University Law Professors Adam Candeub and Mae Kuykendall that they call “E-Marriage”. They have created the Legal E-Marriage Project. Their project was announced in late October with this press release.

Professors Candeub and Kuykendall argue that states should permit a couple to marry under the laws of whichever location (in or out of the authorizing state) the couple chooses. The professors explain that the couple’s physical presence within the particular state authorizing their marriage has never been a requirement the states must impose in order to marry couples. Couples have for centuries married by proxy, mail, and telephone. The military has for many years recognized such marriages as legal for purposes of spousal allowances and death benefits, they explain.

The Michigan Public Radio piece (you can listen to it here) interviewed Lansing (Michigan) City Clerk Chris Swope who married his husband, Brad Rakowski in 2004 in two separate ceremonies. The first was with friends and family in Lansing, Michigan. The second took place across the Detroit River in Windsor.

On a Saturday afternoon in 2004, Chris Swope and his partner, Brad Rakowski, exchanged vows in a Lansing, Mich., church before their family and friends.

Two days later, the couple had a second, quieter ceremony in Windsor, Ontario. That’s where they signed the papers that bestowed on them the Canadian province’s legal blessing.

And that poses a dilemma, Swope says.

“You know, it kind of throws us up in the air about which is our real anniversary,” he said. “The one that was more meaningful and heartfelt but has zero legal recognition, or the one that’s legally recognized.”

Swope’s home state of Michigan is one of 29 that impose constitutional restrictions on marriage

The latter marriage was legal. The former was not. Neither is recognized in the state where Chris and Brad live.

Under Kuykendall’s and Candeub’s proposal, Swope and his husband would have had the option of getting married online. They would be able to obtain a marriage license from a state that allows for legal same-sex marriage and tie the knot without having to make the road trip.

The proposal would allow same sex couples to marry in California under the laws of Massachusetts or Vermont, if those states enacted e-marriage provisions. Even though the couple’s home state would not be required to recognize the marriage, the couple could celebrate their marriage at home in front of friends at their setting of choice. The same is true for couples who’d like to enter a covenant marriage, in which the couple can express a higher degree of commitment by agreeing to more onerous divorce procedures. Covenant marriages are only offered by Louisiana and Arizona. With a state e-marriage enactment, these states could offer the symbolic extra dimension to marriages that take place outside their borders.

You can read more about this idea by downloading their white paper “E-Marriage: Breaking the Marriage Monopoly” HERE.

The two professors also suggest this would be a viable option for “opposite-sex” partners who are far apart such as those in the military.

Certainly this is no substitution for the enactment of full marriage rights for same-sex couples. As the excerpt above clearly states, the couple’s home state would not be required to recognize the marriage (though some places like New York and Washington, D.C. recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states though they do not allow them.) However, this would afford these couples the luxury of not having to travel to another state away from their home, their families and their friends in order to have the ceremony.

The question is, I suppose, do these types of arrangements serve to delay the achievement of actual marriage rights because they are seen by legislators and voters as “good enough” or are they part of the chipping away at the fortress that will eventually lead to full marriage rights for ALL Americans.

I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

I’m just sayin’…