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Civil marriage

Civil marriage

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Civil marriage is marriage
Marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 performed by a government official and not a religious organization.

History


Every country maintaining a population registry
Civil registry
Civil registration is the system by which a government records the vital events of its citizens and residents. The resulting repository or database is called civil register or registry, or population registry. The primary purpose of civil registration is to create legal documents that are used to...

 of its residents keeps track of marital status
Marital status
A person's marital status indicates whether the person is married. Questions about marital status appear on many polls and forms, including censuses and credit card applications.In the simplest sense, the only possible answers are "single" or "married"...

, and most countries believe that it is their responsibility to register married couples. Most countries define the conditions of civil marriage separately from religious requirements. Certain countries, such as Israel, only allow couples to register on the condition that they have first been married in a religious ceremony recognised by the state, or were married in a different country.

In England


In medieval Europe
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, marriage was governed by canon law
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

, which recognised as valid only those marriages where the parties stated they took one another as husband and wife, regardless of the presence or absence of witnesses. It was not necessary, however, to be married by any official or cleric. This institution was cancelled in England with the enactment of "Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act
Marriage Act 1753
The Marriage Act 1753, full title "An Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage", popularly known as Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act , was the first statutory legislation in England and Wales to require a formal ceremony of marriage. It came into force on 25 March 1754...

" of 1753, which required that, in order to be valid and registered, all marriages were to be performed in an official ceremony in a religious setting recognised by the state, i.e. Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

, the Quakers
Religious Society of Friends
The Religious Society of Friends, or Friends Church, is a Christian movement which stresses the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Members are known as Friends, or popularly as Quakers. It is made of independent organisations, which have split from one another due to doctrinal differences...

, or in a Jewish ceremony. Any other form of marriage was abolished. Children born into unions which were not valid under the Act would not automatically inherit
Inheritance
Inheritance is the practice of passing on property, titles, debts, rights and obligations upon the death of an individual. It has long played an important role in human societies...

 the property or titles of their parents. For historical reasons, the Act did not apply in Scotland. Consequently, until 1940, it continued to be enough in Scotland for a man and a woman to pledge their commitment to each other in front of witnesses to legalise their marriage. This led to an industry of "fast marriages" in Scottish towns on the border with England; the town of Gretna Green
Gretna Green
Gretna Green is a village in the south of Scotland famous for runaway weddings. It is in Dumfries and Galloway, near the mouth of the River Esk and was historically the first village in Scotland, following the old coaching route from London to Edinburgh. Gretna Green has a railway station serving...

 was particularly well known for this. In 1836
Marriage Act 1836
The Act for Marriages in England 1836 6&7WmIV, c85 was an act that legalised the concept of civil marriage into England and Wales from 1 January 1837....

 the requirement that the ceremony take place in a religious forum was removed, and registrar
Register office
A register office is a British term for a civil registry, a government office and depository where births, deaths and marriages are officially recorded and where you can get officially married, without a religious ceremony...

s were given the authority to register marriages not conducted by a religious official.

In other European countries



Many European countries had institutions similar to common-law marriage
Common-law marriage
Common-law marriage, sometimes called sui juris marriage, informal marriage or marriage by habit and repute, is a form of interpersonal status that is legally recognized in limited jurisdictions as a marriage even though no legally recognized marriage ceremony is performed or civil marriage...

. In 1566, the edict of the Council of Trent
Council of Trent
The Council of Trent was the 16th-century Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It is considered to be one of the Church's most important councils. It convened in Trent between December 13, 1545, and December 4, 1563 in twenty-five sessions for three periods...

 was proclaimed denying Catholics
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 any form of marriage not executed in a religious ceremony before a priest and two witnesses.

The Protestant
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 pastor and theologian of Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

 John Calvin
John Calvin
John Calvin was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530...

 decreed that, in order for a couple to be considered married, they must be registered by the state in addition to a church ceremony.

In 1792, with the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, religious marriage ceremonies in France were made secondary to civil marriage. Religious ceremonies could still be performed, but only for couples who had already been married in a civil ceremony. Napoleon later spread this custom throughout most of Europe. In present-day France only civil marriage has legal validity. A religious ceremony may be performed after the civil union, but has no legal effect.

In Germany the Napoleonic code
Napoleonic code
The Napoleonic Code — or Code Napoléon — is the French civil code, established under Napoléon I in 1804. The code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs go to the most qualified...

 was valid only in territories conquered by Napoleon. With the fall of his empire, civil marriage in Germany began to die out. However, certain sovereign German states introduced civil marriages, which were either obligatory (like the French model) or optional, with either a religious or civil ceremony being accepted. Already before 1848 the Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach
Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach
The Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach was created in 1809 by the merger of the Ernestine duchies of Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach. It was raised to a Grand duchy in 1815 by resolution of the Vienna Congress. In 1877, it officially changed its name to the Grand Duchy of Saxony , but this name was...

 enacted optional civil marriages, followed by the German republics of the Free City of Frankfurt upon Main
Free City of Frankfurt
For almost five centuries, the German city of Frankfurt am Main was a city-state within two major Germanic states:*The Holy Roman Empire as the Free Imperial City of Frankfurt...

 (1850, obligatory), Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (1851, optional) and Free and Hanseatic City of Lübeck (1852, optional). German grand duchies such as Oldenburg (1852/1855, optional), Baden
Grand Duchy of Baden
The Grand Duchy of Baden was a historical state in the southwest of Germany, on the east bank of the Rhine. It existed between 1806 and 1918.-History:...

 (1860) and Hesse
Grand Duchy of Hesse
The Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine , or, between 1806 and 1816, Grand Duchy of Hesse —as it was also known after 1816—was a member state of the German Confederation from 1806, when the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt was elevated to a Grand Duchy, until 1918, when all the German...

 (1860) as well as the Kingdom of Württemberg
Kingdom of Württemberg
The Kingdom of Württemberg was a state that existed from 1806 to 1918, located in present-day Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It was a continuation of the Duchy of Württemberg, which came into existence in 1495...

 (1863) followed suit. Civil marriages enabled interfaith marriages as well as marriages between spouses of different Christian denominations. After the union of Germany as one empire in 1871, the Reichstag
Reichstag (German Empire)
The Reichstag was the parliament of the North German Confederation , and of the German Reich ....

 adopted a bill initiated by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a Prussian-German statesman whose actions unified Germany, made it a major player in world affairs, and created a balance of power that kept Europe at peace after 1871.As Minister President of...

 as the "Civil Marriage Law" in 1875; since then, only civil marriages have been recognised in Germany. Religious ceremonies may still be performed at the couple's discretion. Until Dec. 31, 2008, religious marriages could not be performed until the couple had first married in a civil ceremony.

England


Today marriages in England must be held in authorised premises, which may include register offices, premises such as stately homes, castles and hotels that have been approved by the local authority, churches or chapels of the Church of England or Wales, and other churches and religious premises that have been registered by the registrar general for marriage.

Civil marriages require a certificate, and at times a license, that testify that the couple is fit for marriage. A short time after they are approved in the superintendent registrar's office, a short non-religious ceremony takes place which the registrar, the couple and two witnesses must attend; guests may also be present.

United States


In all states in the United States, it is possible to obtain a civil marriage. Such ceremonies are conducted before a local civil authority, such as a mayor, judge, deputy marriage commissioner
Deputy marriage commissioner
The duties of a Deputy Marriage Commissioner vary from county to county and from state to state within the United States but are generally empowered to perform Civil Marriage ceremonies during a fixed time and/or in a fixed place...

 or other public official. It is not uncommon for these ceremonies make mention of a deity, but most do not reference any specific religion. Many of these ceremonies take place in the town hall or local courthouse. As part of such ceremonies, a religious official such as a rabbi, pastor, or qadi
Qadi
Qadi is a judge ruling in accordance with Islamic religious law appointed by the ruler of a Muslim country. Because Islam makes no distinction between religious and secular domains, qadis traditionally have jurisdiction over all legal matters involving Muslims...

 may be given the authority to conduct the marriage by the state, thus unifying the religious with the civil ceremony.

Countries with mandatory civil marriage


In many countries such as France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Brazil, Switzerland and Russia, there is a civil ceremony requirement. Following the civil marriage ceremony, couples are free to marry in a religious ceremony. Such ceremonies, however, only serve to provide a religious recognition of the marriage, since the state's recognition has already been given. In some of these countries (e.g. The Netherlands and Belgium) most couples get married without any religious ceremony at all. Full, formal weddings, complete with wedding gowns and the presence of family and friends, are usually conducted in special ceremonial rooms in the town hall.

Countries with no civil marriage


There is no civil marriage in many Arab countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Syria , Jordan , UAE , Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, Mauritania, as well as in Indonesia , Iran and Israel, among other countries; all marriages are conducted by religious authorities, and are registered by civil authorities only after having been registered by authorities of officially approved religions (Egypt, Israel and Lebanon all recognize Christianity, Islam and Judaism; in many Arab countries almost 100% citizens are Muslim), or, having been registered abroad. This yields particular problems for those who are refused divorce by their spouses, or couples in religious traditions that forbid divorce altogether. Malaysia allows civil marriage for non-Muslim only, while Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan allow it for foreign citizens only.

Civil unions of same-sex couples


Since April 2001 to today, there are 10 countries, the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

, Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

 and Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

, which recognise marriages between same-sex couples, thus giving them the same rights afforded to heterosexual married couples. Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, Aruba
Aruba
Aruba is a 33 km-long island of the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean Sea, located 27 km north of the coast of Venezuela and 130 km east of Guajira Peninsula...

, the Netherlands Antilles
Netherlands Antilles
The Netherlands Antilles , also referred to informally as the Dutch Antilles, was an autonomous Caribbean country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, consisting of two groups of islands in the Lesser Antilles: Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao , in Leeward Antilles just off the Venezuelan coast; and Sint...

 and one U.S. state, Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

, recognise same-sex marriages registered in other countries, but do not recognise such marriages performed within their borders.

Six states in the United States legally allow same-sex civil marriage. These are Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

, Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

, Iowa
Iowa
Iowa is a state located in the Midwestern United States, an area often referred to as the "American Heartland". It derives its name from the Ioway people, one of the many American Indian tribes that occupied the state at the time of European exploration. Iowa was a part of the French colony of New...

, New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

, Vermont
Vermont
Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state ranks 43rd in land area, , and 45th in total area. Its population according to the 2010 census, 630,337, is the second smallest in the country, larger only than Wyoming. It is the only New England...

 and New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

. In 29 countries worldwide, and several other states within the U.S., a same-sex couple can be legally partnered in a civil union
Civil union
A civil union, also referred to as a civil partnership, is a legally recognized form of partnership similar to marriage. Beginning with Denmark in 1989, civil unions under one name or another have been established by law in many developed countries in order to provide same-sex couples rights,...

 or registered partnership. Couples in these partnerships, first recognised in Denmark in 1989, are afforded rights and obligations similar to, but not identical to, those of a married couple. At the federal level in the United States, The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
Defense of Marriage Act
The Defense of Marriage Act is a United States federal law whereby the federal government defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. Under the law, no U.S. state may be required to recognize as a marriage a same-sex relationship considered a marriage in another state...

 defines marriage as being between a male and female. Additionally, many individual states in the U.S. do not recognise civil unions and refuse to afford same-sex couples in sexual relationships the same rights and responsibilities as married opposite-sex couples.

See also

  • Marriage
    Marriage
    Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

  • Civil union
    Civil union
    A civil union, also referred to as a civil partnership, is a legally recognized form of partnership similar to marriage. Beginning with Denmark in 1989, civil unions under one name or another have been established by law in many developed countries in order to provide same-sex couples rights,...

  • Domestic partnership
    Domestic partnership
    A domestic partnership is a legal or personal relationship between two individuals who live together and share a common domestic life but are neither joined by marriage nor a civil union...

  • Common-law marriage
    Common-law marriage
    Common-law marriage, sometimes called sui juris marriage, informal marriage or marriage by habit and repute, is a form of interpersonal status that is legally recognized in limited jurisdictions as a marriage even though no legally recognized marriage ceremony is performed or civil marriage...

  • Same-sex marriage
    Same-sex marriage
    Same-sex marriage is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex or social gender. Supporters of legal recognition for same-sex marriage typically refer to such recognition as marriage equality....