A marriage is the state of being united to another individual in a consensual and contractual relationship. There are a number of different types of marriage today depending on the culture, law, religion or personal beliefs of the individuals being united. The reason for marriages varies drastically ranging from everything from emotional attachment to family or legal obligations.

“Traditional marriage” or marriage between individuals of the opposite sex is legal the world over but other types of marriages, like plural-marriage, arranged marriage, or same sex marriage are somewhat less common and sometimes completely unrecognized or sanctioned. In the United States, the traditional marriage is commonly accepted as the “norm” but in today’s society we are becoming somewhat more open to other marital options, particularly same sex marriage, which is often in the news and a topic of interest in state and federal government.

There are certain rules in America that must be met before a marriage may take place. Laws vary by state to state, however states generally all require items like an age limit, payment for an official marriage license, proof of termination, dissolution or annulment of any prior marriages, mental capacity and consent of both individuals. Additionally the individuals involved may not be closely related, however in some states first cousins are allowed to be married, such is the case in North Carolina. In the past physical exams and blood tests for venereal diseases were required of everyone wishing to be married, but with the exception of a few states, this is rarely the case anymore. Essentially, it is the state that determines the requirements for marriage, not the federal government.

Same Sex Marriage

Same sex marriage is a controversial issue today, it is often the topic of political debates and protests. The federal government does not recognize same sex marriages, as is specified in the Defense of Marriage Act; however certain states have opted to legalize gay marriage. Currently nine states have legalized same sex marriage and it does seem that acceptance or at the very least tolerance for same sex unions is on the rise. However, there are always going to be opponents to this type of marriage, particularly within conservative Christian circles. Many political leaders use their stance against gay marriage to acquire support from a targeted group of these conservatives. Typically, these individuals believe that a marriage should be between a man and woman as it is defined by the Bible, believing that a marriage between two men or two women would be unholy and sinful. Others believe that same sex marriage is a gateway to other alternative marriages or that it undermines the sanctity of the bond between man and woman. Additionally, some think that same sex marriage undermines the roles of husband and wife as defined by their religious beliefs.

On the other hand, supporters of gay marriage believe it should be up to the individuals involved and no intervention from the government should be allowed. It is a personal decision made between two consenting individuals, and supporters believe it is unconstitutional to deprive people of their rights to marry. Many believe that the ban on same sex unions is putting homosexuals into a different category, depriving them of respect and dignity that is afforded to others. Same sex unions would allow for homosexuals to have the same rights as traditional married individuals, offering tax or legal incentives, medical coverage for a spouse, death benefits, child support, and the right to make decisions for their spouse should they be incapacitated. Currently same sex marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Iowa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Vermont. Outside of the United States, gay marriage is legal in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Spain, South Africa, Mexico, Portugal, United Kingdom, Hungary, and Ireland.

Common Law Marriage

Another type of marriage is known as a common law marriage. This type of marriage, like same sex marriage, is not recognized in all states. Individuals who consider themselves to be married in every sense of the word, holding the same last name, filing joint tax returns, etc., are considered to be married by common law. These couples are considered married even though no marriage certificate was issued. There are other regulations and requirements for common law marriages but they vary from state to state, so being common law married in one state doesn’t mean you are married by common law in another. Should a common law couple decide to part ways, in a state that recognizes common law marriage, a proper divorce must be filed, despite the fact that no marriage ever took place. Common law marriages are essentially treated exactly the same as traditional marriages. In states that common law is not recognized, couples are never considered to be married regardless of of how long they have lived together. Currently there are 11 states that recognize common law marriages: Alabama, Colorado, District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah

License Laws in North Carolina

In order to be married in the state of North Carolina you must be 18 years of age, or have parental consent if you are 16 or 17. Individuals ages 14 and 15 may not be married unless ordered by a court and marriage is not an option for those under the age of 14. A proof of age is required for all marriage applicants; this can be shown with a license, Military or State I.D. passport or birth certificate. Any person under the age of 20 must present a certified birth certificate. You must also have proof that you have a social security number, through a W-2 form, your social security card, or payroll stub. Proof of termination of any previous marriages must be presented, if applicable. Marriages between relatives closer than first cousins are not allowed. A $50 fee in cash is required for a marriage license and two witnesses are required for the marriage to be valid. No blood tests or exams are required. Same sex and common law marriages are not recognized by the state of North Carolina.

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