CONCORD, N.H. (Dec. 14, 2015) –A bill has been filed in the New Hampshire state House that would end mandatory government licensing of marriages in the state, effectively nullifying in practice both major sides of the contentious national debate over government-sanctioned marriage.

HB1596 acknowledges the right of two individuals to marry and that because of this “it is improper for the government to license a right.”

“The state of New Hampshire is compelled to return to the practice of certificate of notice of intent to marry and a certificate of marriage which existed until 1997 and which provides interested parties the opportunity to object to a proposed marriage,” the bill reads.
Instead of having to get a state marriage license, couples would provide a certificate of notice of intent to marry and a certificate of marriage. The certificate of notice would require the following:

All persons proposing to be joined in marriage within the state shall place a notice of intent to marry in a newspaper not more than 90 days prior to nor less than 14 weeks prior to the date of the marriage.  The persons proposing to be married shall present the town clerk of either proposed spouse with a copy of the notice with all facts required by RSA 5-C:41 to be entered in any town clerk’s office.  The clerk shall record the notice in a book to be kept for that purpose and provide the parties proposing to marry with a certificate of notice of intent to marry.

The marriage certificate would record that the marriage ceremony took place and records the person who solemnized the marriage. The certificate would be completed by the bride, groom, the officiant, and the clerk of the town or city.  The certificate would then be used to register the marriage. 
However, the bill also allows for individuals to be considered “married” without having to go through this process.

Persons cohabiting and acknowledging each other as husband and wife, and generally reputed to be such, for the period of 3 years, and until the decease of one of them, shall thereafter be deemed to have been lawfully married.

HB 1596 would accomplish two things.

First, it would effectively render the edicts of federal judges that have overturned state laws defining marriage. The founding generation never envisioned unelected judges issuing ex cathedra pronouncements regarding the definition of social institutions like marriage and the Constitution delegates the federal judiciary no authority to meddle in the issue. Marriage is a realm clearly left to the states and the people.

Christopher Wesley, an associated scholar at the Mises Institute, wrote that “marriage is most endangered when it rests in the coercive hands of the State.”

This bill would be a step toward getting the state government out of defining marriage entirely, ending the squabble between factions that seek to harness its power for their own agendas.

TJ Martinell

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