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What is an Illegal Marriage?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 07 December 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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December 10 ,  1948 :  The UN adopted the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.  more...

Illegal marriage is simply marriage that does not conform to the legal restrictions of marriage present in a specific area. If a person is married in an area that allows a certain type of marriage but then moves to or visits an area where that type of marriage is illegal, the rights of that person may not be upheld. While many restrictions on marriage concern the types of people who may become married, motivations for marriage can also be made illegal. Given that what constitutes an illegal marriage differs depending on area, it is important to look into the laws specific to the state in which the marriage is to occur.

In many areas, a marriage may be illegal if one or more of the parties belong to a specific group or if a participant is already married. It is common for underage marriage to be illegal whether one or both partners are underage. Gender is also a large factor in determining if a marriage is an illegal marriage, as many areas hold that marriages between two members of the same biological sex are illegal. In certain places, two people who are getting married must be of the same religion or of the same race. There have been many other restrictions on marriage historically, and it is likely that many more will evolve.

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One interesting complication to illegal marriage regulations is that sometimes the reason a person decides to marry can make the marriage either legal or illegal. For example, a green card marriage, in which a citizen of the United States marries a citizen of another country in order to provide that alien with a green card, is often considered illegal marriage. Problematically, it is not often possible to determine which marriages are fraudulent and which are entered into for love. As such, it is usually necessary for a couple to remain married for a number of years before the foreign citizen can get United States citizenship.

It is possible for a certain type of marriage to be illegal in one sense, but permissible in another. Religious marriages need not always line up with state marriages, although religious marriages may not provide the same legal benefits that state marriages can. Even if marriage is not legal for a couple, it is often possible for people to enter into other types of contracts that resemble marriage but do not go by the same name. Also, even if an appropriate agreement cannot be obtained, many areas do not actively prevent those people who are not allowed to marry from engaging in long-term relationships with one another.

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Ana1234
Post 3

@KoiwiGal - I think the reason GLBT folk want to have the same rights to marriage as their fellow heterosexual citizens is simply because there is no reason why they should be denied it, except sexism. Different but equal segregation doesn't work.

I've never understood what the big deal is, to be honest. There are all kinds of things the general public does that aren't supposed to be done by Christians or other religious folk and they don't usually protest against that. This isn't something that is even going to directly effect them or effect anyone except the couples involved, so I don't see why it's anyone's business except theirs.

KoiwiGal
Post 2

@irontoenail - It's an interesting question, because a lot of the gay marriage debate revolves around the fact that they basically do already have all the rights of marriage through civil unions, but that they want to be able to say that they are actually married.

Legally there might not be any difference. It kind of makes you wonder what the definition of marriage actually is. Is it just a legal arrangement? If so, what difference does it make what the name of the arrangement happens to be?

irontoenail
Post 1

I find this all kind of difficult to be honest. Especially the clause about green cards. Because I don't actually think that marriage should have anything to do with love, legally at least. I think it should just be a legal arrangement between two (or possibly more) consenting adults and that should be the only consideration.

But I also don't think that it should be used as a means to get into a country. I guess the solution would be to tie the ability to bring over a spouse with something over than marriage status, like how long they have lived together, or whether they have children.

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