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Marriage

Is That Legal – Internet Wedding

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  This blog should not be viewed as legal advice.  It is simply my experiences, opinions, and information I looked up on the internet.

Photo by Sheila Dee

My friend, Evo Terra, is an ordained minister through the Universal Life Church.  If you have five minutes and an internet connection, you can be ordained too.  He’s performed a handful of marriages over the years but this weekend he performed a most unusual marriage ceremony.  The bride and groom were in North Carolina and he performed the ceremony over the internet via webcam.  When he agreed to perform the ceremony, he put the responsibility on the couple to make sure that the marriage is legitimate.

In California, Colorado, Montana, and Texas, you can have a marriage by proxy, where a third person stands in for the bride or groom who is unable to be there.  If it’s possible to get married when the bride or groom isn’t physically present in the room, is the marriage valid if the minister isn’t physically present?

According to the law in North Carolina, all you need to have a valid marriage is a marriage license and a consenting heterosexual couple who freely, seriously, and plainly take each other as husband and wife in the presence of an ordained minister of any religious denomination.  The law does not provide any specifics regarding where the minister needs to physically be during the ceremony.  I would not be surprised if the couple signs their marriage license and sends it to Evo, who then signs in and sends it in to the appropriate recording office in North Carolina, that they would accept it without batting an eye.

This issue boils down to what is does it mean to have a marriage ceremony in the presence of a minister.  I could not find a definition for “presence” in the North Carolina marriage laws.  Is a being present live via web cam enough or must the minister be physically present in the room?

This issue reminds me of the use of proxy signatures on a will.  In Arizona, if a person cannot sign their will themselves, they can direct someone else to sign it for them in their “conscious presence.”  The requirement of conscious presence could not be fulfilled over the telephone, and probably not via web cam according to my Decedent Estates professor.   North Carolina only requires a proxy signature on a will to be completed in the person’s presence and at their direction.   I don’t know if the definition of “conscious presence” in Arizona is the same as “presence” in North Carolina.

Did my friend perform a valid marriage ceremony this weekend?  I don’t know.  I called Wake County in North Carolina.  Someone there said that the marriage laws have not been changed since they were enacted; therefore the marriage isn’t valid unless the minister is physically in the same room with the bride and groom.  She basically said that since marriage couldn’t be performed over the internet in the past, they can’t be performed over the internet now.  I think that answer is incomplete and that this issue deserves some exploration.

I don’t think this issue is going to have a legal answer unless someone goes to court and claims that their marriage that was officiated via web cam wasn’t a valid marriage.  That probably will not happen unless a spouse who was married over the internet dies without a will and someone who would get a larger inheritance from the deceased’s estate claims that the surviving spouse should not inherit from the estate because the marriage was not valid.

National Coming Out Day Rant

October 11th is National Coming Out Day.  In honor of this holiday, I’ll gladly share that I’m bisexual.  I hope that’s not an issue for you.  If it is, you have an issue.

For anyone who doesn’t understand bisexuality, it means I am attracted to both genders.  That doesn’t mean that I’m a slut or that I have to date both men and women to be happy.  It simply means that a person’s gender isn’t a deal-breaker when I’m deciding who I want to date.

Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...
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I love holidays in general, but this holiday makes me a little sad because a person’s sexuality is still an ongoing issue.   We have teens committing suicide left and right because of it.  I mean, who cares who someone falls in love with?  I’m all for consenting adults falling in love.  I don’t care what they do behind closed doors.  If you don’t want to watch two people holding hands or kissing in public, don’t look.  I do that all the time with I see people, usually a hetero couple, gratuitously sucking face.

I tend to laugh at homophobic people’s reasons for being homophobic.  The best ones usually come from straight guys who say, “I don’t want some dude hitting on me.”  I generally have two responses for this guy:

  1. What person, gay or straight, is going to be attracted to you and your narrow mind?
  2. You should be flattered that any person is attracted to you.  If you’re secure in who you are, you should be able to handle that person’s advances with class if you do not reciprocate their feelings.

I’m all for the government giving the same rights to any couple.  If the United States is going to give married heteros certain rights, they should give the married homos the same rights.  I don’t care what they call it, whether it’s “marriage” or “civil union,” but they have to use the same term for straight and gay unions.

Given the state of the economy, I’d expect the government to support gay marriage.  Our country will get back on track faster if we’re spending money.  Do you know how much it costs to get married?  There are the clothes, the rings, the flowers, the reception, the travel expenses, and the honeymoon for starters.  And unfortunately, after the wedding, at least half of these couples will eventually get divorces, which includes legal expenses, buying and selling property, and the post-divorce party.  All of this is good for business.

So Happy National Coming Out Day one and all.  To the baby gays out there, I hope your coming out process has been supported by your loved ones, and if it hasn’t, know that support is available.  If other people’s non-heterosexuality is an issue for you, please get over it.  It’s not a big deal.

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