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Five Reasons Why Christians Should Not Obtain a State Marriage License

Pastor Matt Trewhella

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a "license" demands that we not obtain one to marry. Black’s Law Dictionary defines "license" as, "The permission by competent authority to do an act which without such permission, would be illegal." We need to ask ourselves- why should it be illegal to marry without the State’s permission? More importantly, why should we need the State’s permission to participate in something which God instituted (Gen. 2:18-24)? We should not need the State’s permission to marry nor should we grovel before state officials to seek it. What if you apply and the State says "no"? You must understand that the authority to license implies the power to prohibit. A license by definition "confers a right" to do something. The State cannot grant the right to marry. It is a God-given right.

2. When you marry with a marriage license, you grant the State jurisdiction over your marriage. When you marry with a marriage license, your marriage is a creature of the State. It is a corporation of the State! Therefore, they have jurisdiction over your marriage including the fruit of your marriage. What is the fruit of your marriage? Your children and every piece of property you own. There is plenty of case law in American jurisprudence which declares this to be true.

In 1993, parents were upset here in Wisconsin because a test was being administered to their children in the government schools which was very invasive of the family’s privacy. When parents complained, they were shocked by the school bureaucrats who informed them that their children were required to take the test by law and that they would have to take the test because they (the government school) had jurisdiction over their children. When parents asked the bureaucrats what gave them jurisdiction, the bureaucrats answered, "your marriage license and their birth certificates." Judicially, and in increasing fashion, practically, your state marriage license has far-reaching implications.

3. When you marry with a marriage license, you place yourself under a body of law which is immoral. By obtaining a marriage license, you place yourself under the jurisdiction of Family Court which is governed by unbiblical and immoral laws. Under these laws, you can divorce for any reason. Often, the courts side with the spouse who is in rebellion to God, and castigates the spouse who remains faithful by ordering him or her not to speak about the Bible or other matters of faith when present with the children.

As a minister, I cannot in good conscience perform a marriage which would place people under this immoral body of laws. I also cannot marry someone with a marriage license because to do so I have to act as an agent of the State! I would have to sign the marriage license, and I would have to mail it into the State. Given the State’s demand to usurp the place of God and family regarding marriage, and given it’s unbiblical, immoral laws to govern marriage, it would be an act of treason for me to do so.

4. The marriage license invades and removes God-given parental authority. When you read the Bible, you see that God intended for children to have their father’s blessing regarding whom they married. Daughters were to be given in marriage by their fathers (Dt. 22:16; Ex. 22:17; I Cor. 7:38). We have a vestige of this in our culture today in that the father takes his daughter to the front of the altar and the minister asks, "Who gives this woman to be married to this man?"

Historically, there was no requirement to obtain a marriage license in colonial America. When you read the laws of the colonies and then the states, you see only two requirements for marriage. First, you had to obtain your parents permission to marry, and second, you had to post public notice of the marriage 5-15 days before the ceremony.

Notice you had to obtain your parents permission. Back then you saw godly government displayed in that the State recognized the parents authority by demanding that the parents permission be obtained. Today, the all-encompassing ungodly State demands that their permission be obtained to marry.

By issuing marriage licenses, the State is saying, "You don’t need your parents permission, you need our permission." If parents are opposed to their child’s marrying a certain person and refuse to give their permission, the child can do an end run around the parents authority by obtaining the State’s permission, and marry anyway. This is an invasion and removal of God-given parental authority by the State.

5. When you marry with a marriage license, you are like a polygamist. From the State’s point of view, when you marry with a marriage license, you are not just marrying your spouse, but you are also marrying the State.

The most blatant declaration of this fact that I have ever found is a brochure entitled "With This Ring I Thee Wed." It is found in county courthouses across Ohio where people go to obtain their marriage licenses. It is published by the Ohio State Bar Association. The opening paragraph under the subtitle "Marriage Vows" states, "Actually, when you repeat your marriage vows you enter into a legal contract. There are three parties to that contract. 1.You; 2. Your husband or wife, as the case may be; and 3. the State of Ohio."

See, the State and the lawyers know that when you marry with a marriage license, you are not just marrying your spouse, you are marrying the State! You are like a polygamist! You are not just making a vow to your spouse, but you are making a vow to the State and your spouse. You are also giving undue jurisdiction to the State.

When Does the State Have Jurisdiction Over a Marriage?

God intended the State to have jurisdiction over a marriage for two reasons - 1). in the case of divorce, and 2). when crimes are committed i.e., adultery, bigamy. etc. Unfortunately, the State now allows divorce for any reason, and it does not prosecute for adultery.

In either case, divorce or crime, a marriage license is not necessary for the courts to determine whether a marriage existed or not. What is needed are witnesses. This is why you have a best man and a maid of honor. They should sign the marriage certificate in your family Bible, and the wedding day guest book should be kept.

Marriage was instituted by God, therefore it is a God-given right. According to Scripture, it is to be governed by the family, and the State only has jurisdiction in the cases of divorce or crime.

History of Marriage Licenses in America

George Washington was married without a marriage license. Abraham Lincoln was married without a marriage license. So, how did we come to this place in America where marriage licenses are issued?

Historically, all the states in America had laws outlawing the marriage of blacks and whites. In the mid-1800’s, certain states began allowing interracial marriages or miscegenation as long as those marrying received a license from the state. In other words they had to receive permission to do an act which without such permission would have been illegal.

Blacks Law Dictionary points to this historical fact when it defines "marriage license" as, "A license or permission granted by public authority to persons who intend to intermarry." "Intermarry" is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary as, "Miscegenation; mixed or interracial marriages."

Give the State an inch and they will take a 100 miles (or as one elderly woman once said to me "10,000 miles.") Not long after these licenses were issued, some states began requiring all people who marry to obtain a marriage license. In 1923, the Federal Government established the Uniform Marriage and Marriage License Act (they later established the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act). By 1929, every state in the Union had adopted marriage license laws.

What Should We Do?

Christian couples should not be marrying with State marriage licenses, nor should ministers be marrying people with State marriage licenses. Some have said to me, "If someone is married without a marriage license, then they aren’t really married." Given the fact that states may soon legalize same-sex marriages, we need to ask ourselves, "If a man and a man marry with a State marriage license, and a man and woman marry without a State marriage license - who’s really married? Is it the two men with a marriage license, or the man and woman without a marriage license? In reality, this contention that people are not really married unless they obtain a marriage license simply reveals how Statist we are in our thinking. We need to think biblically.

You should not have to obtain a license from the State to marry someone anymore than you should have to obtain a license from the State to be a parent, which some in academic and legislative circles are currently pushing to be made law.

When I marry a couple, I always buy them a Family Bible which contains birth and death records, and a marriage certificate. We record the marriage in the Family Bible. What’s recorded in a Family Bible will stand up as legal evidence in any court of law in America. Both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were married without a marriage license. They simply recorded their marriages in their Family Bibles. So should we.

(Pastor Trewhella has been marrying couples without marriage licenses for ten years. Many other pastors also refuse to marry couples with State marriage licenses.

This pamphlet is not comprehensive in scope. Rather, the purpose of this pamphlet is to make you think and give you a starting point to do further study of your own. If you would like an audio sermon regarding this matter, just send a gift of at least five dollars in cash to: Mercy Seat Christian Church 10240 W. National Ave. PMB #129 Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53227.

Subject: Should "Marriage" Even Be Defined in Secular Law?

About 15 years ago, my former wife of 26-1/2 years, filed for divorce. We had seven children, five daughters and two sons. Our youngest at the time, our second son, was five years old.

At the time, I prepared a counterclaim to the Petition for Dissolution her attorney filed in Domestic Relations (DR) court. I met oneafternoon with the head of the Maricopa County Superior Court, Marriage License Bureau,in downtown Phoenix. The marriage license bureau was headed by a young woman of about age 25. I asked her to explain to me the general and statutory implications of the marriage license. She was very cooperative, and called in an Assistant, a tall Black man who at the time was working on an Operations Manual for internal departmental use.

She deferred for most technical explanations to her Assistant. He walked through the technicalities of the marriage license as it operates in Arizona. He mentioned that marriage licensing is pretty much the same in the other states -- but there are differences. One significant difference he mentioned was that Arizona is one of eight western states that are Community Property states. The other states are Common Law states, including Utah, with the exception of Lousiana which is a Napoleonic Code state.

He then explained some of the technicalities of the marriage license. He said, first of all, the marriage license is Secular Contract between the parties and the State. The State is the principal party in that Secular Contract. The husband and wife are secondary or inferior parties. The Secular Contract is a three-way contract between the State, as Principal, and the husband and wife as the other two legs of the Contract. He said, in the traditional sense a marriage is a covenant between the husband and wife and God. But in the Secular Contract with the state, reference to God is a dotted line, and not officially considered included in the Secular Contract at all. He said, if the husband and wife wish to include God as a party in their marriage, that is a "dotted line" they will have to add in their own minds. The state's marriage license is "strictly secular," he said. He said further, that what he meant by the relationship to God being a "dotted line" meant that the State regards any mention of God as irrelevant, even meaningless.

In his description of the marriage license contract, he related one other "dotted line." He said in the traditional religious context, marriage was a covenant between the husband and wife and God with husband and wife joined as one. This is not the case in the secular realm of the state's marriage license contract. The State is the Principal or dominant party. The husband and wife are merely contractually "joined" as business partners, not in any religious union. They may even be considered, he said, connected to each other by another "dotted line." The picture he was trying to "paint" was that of a triangle with the State at the top and a solid line extending from the apex, the State, down the left side to the husband, and a separate solid line extending down the right side to the wife, a "dotted line" merely showing that they consider themselves to have entered into a religious union of some sort that is irrelevant to the State. He further mentioned that this "religious overtone" is recognized by the State by requiring that the marriage must be solemnized either by a state official or by a minister of religion that has been "deputized" by the State to perform the marriage ceremony and make a return of the signed and executed marriage license to the State. Again, he emphasized that marriage is a strictly secular relationship so far as the State is concerned and because it is looked upon as a "privileged business enterprise" various tax advantages and other political privileges have become attached to the marriage license contract that have nothing at all to do with marriage as a religious covenant or bond between God and a man and a woman.

By way of reference, if you would like to read a legal treatise on marriage, one of the best is "Principles of Community Property," by William Defuniak.

At the outset, he explains that Community Property law decends from Roman Civil Law through the Spanish Codes, 600 A.D., written by the Spanish jurisconsults. In the civil law, the marriage is considered to be a for-profit venture or profit-making venture (even though it may never actually produce a profit in operation) and as the wife goes out to the local market to purchase food stuffs and other supplies for the marriage household, she is replenishing the stocks of the business. To restate: In the civil law, the marriage is considered to be a business venture, that is, a for-profit business venture. Moreover, as children come into the marriage household, the business venture is considered to have "borne fruit."

Now, back to the explanation by the Maricopa County Superior Court, Marriage Bureau's administrative Assistant. He went on to explain that every contract must have consideration.

The State offers consideration in the form of the actual license itself -- the piece of paper, the Certificate of Marriage. The other part of consideration by the State is "the privilege to be regulated by statute." He added that this privilege to be regulated by statute includes all related statutes, and all court cases as they are ruled on by the courts, and all statutes and regulations into the future in the years following the commencement of the marriage. He said in a way the marriage license contract is a dynamic or flexible, ever-changing contract as time goes along -- even though the husband and wife didn't realize that. My thought on this is, “Can it really be considered a true contract as one becomes aware of the failure by the State to make full disclosure of the terms and conditions?” A contract must be entered into knowingly, intelligently, intentionally, and with fully informed consent. Otherwise, technically there is no contract. Another way to look as the marriage license contract with the State is as a contract of adhesion, a contract between two disparate, unequal parties. Again, a flawed "contract." Such a contract with the State is said to be a "specific performance" contract as to the privileges, duties and responsibilities that attach.

Consideration on the part of the husband and wife is the actual fee paid and the implied agreement to be subject to the state's statutes, rules, and regulations and all court cases ruled on related to marriage law, family law, children, and property.

He emphasized that this contractual consideration by the bride and groom places them in a definite and defined-by-law position inferior and subject to the State. He commented that very few people realize this. He also said that it is very important to understand that children born to the marriage are considered by law as "the contract bearing fruit" -- meaning the children primarily belong to the State, even though the law never comes out and says so in so many words.

In this regard, children born to the contract regarded as "the contract bearing fruit," he said it is vitally important for parents to understand two doctrines that became established in the United States during the 1930s. The first is the Doctrine of Parens Patriae. The second is the Doctrine of In Loco Parentis. Parens Patriae means literally "the parent of the country"or to state it more bluntly -- the State is the undisclosed true parent.

Along this line, a 1930s Arizona Supreme Court case states that parents have no property right in their children, and have custody of their children during good behavior at the sufferance of the State. This means that parents may raise their children and maintain custody of their children as long as they don't offend the State, but if they in some manner displease the State, the State can step in at any time and exercise its superior status and take custody and control of its children -- the parents are only conditional caretakers.

He also added a few more technical details. The marriage license is an ongoing contractual relationship with the State. Technically, the marriage license is a business license allowing the husband and wife, in the name of the marriage, to enter into contracts with third parties and contract mortgages and debts. They can get car loans, home mortgages, and installment debts in the name of the marriage because it is not only a secular enterprise, but it is looked upon by the State as a privileged business enterprise as well as a for-profit business enterprise. The marriage contract acquires property throughout its existence and over time, it is hoped, increases in value. Also, the marriage contract "bears fruit" by adding children. If sometime later, the marriage fails, and a "divorce" results the contract continues in existence. The "divorce" is merely a contractual dissolution or amendment of the terms and conditions of the contract. Jurisdiction of the State over the marriage, over the husband and wife, now separated, continues and continues over all aspects of the marriage, over marital property and over children brought into the marriage.

That is why family law and the Domestic Relations court calls "divorce" a dissolution of the marriage because the contract continues in operation but in amended or modified form. He also pointed out that the marriage license contract is one of the strongest, most binding contractual relationships the States has on people.

At the end of our hour-long meeting, I somewhat humorously asked if other people had come in and asked the questions I was asking? The Assistant replied that in the several years he had worked there, he was not aware of anyone else asking these questions.

He added that he was very glad to see someone interested in the legal implications of the marriage license and the contractual relationship it creates with the State. His boss, the young woman Marriage Bureau department head stated, "You have to understand that people who come in here to get a marriage license are in heat. The last thing they want to know is technical, legal and statutory implications of the marriage license." (Laughter)

I hope this is helpful information to anyone interested in getting more familiar with the contractual implications of the marriage license. The marriage license as we know it didn't come into existence until after the Civil War and didn't become standard practice in all the states until after 1900, becoming firmly established by 1920. In effect, the states or governments appropriated or usurped control of marriages in secular form and in the process declared Common Law applicable to marriages "abrogated.”


With goodwill to all-