5 Reasons Why Christians Should Not Obtain a State Marriage
by Pastor Matt Trewhella
Every year thousands of Christians amble down to their local
county courthouse and obtain a marriage license from the State
in order to marry their future spouse. They do this
unquestioningly. They do it because their pastor has told them
to go get one, and besides, "everybody else gets one." This
pamphlet attempts to answer the question - why should we not get
1. The definition of 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
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. So,
how did we come to this place in America where marriage licenses
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.