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Posted at 3:20 PM ET, 07/ 8/2010

Marry outside Va. and it may not count

By Washington Post editors

Marriages that take place outside of Virginia are not valid in the Commonwealth, even if the couple has obtained a legal Virginia marriage license and the ceremony is performed by a person authorized to do so in Virginia, reporter Rosalind Helderman tells us over at the Virginia Politics blog.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) issued the legal opinion in May in response to a question from the clerk of the Prince William County court regarding a couple whose marriage ceremony took place in Bethesda.

But the opinion -- one of six Cuccinelli has issued since May 6 -- was not posted online. The attorney general's office in recent years has generally provided quick online access to the opinions. The office's website indicated that the general practice is to put opinions onto the Internet within 24 to 48 hours after they are issued.

Cuccinelli spokesman Brian Gottstein said an employee charged with putting the opinions online recently left the office, creating a backlog of opinions not publicized through the website. He said the employee has now been replaced and the process will improve soon.

Check out the Virginia Politics blog for more details.

By Washington Post editors  | July 8, 2010; 3:20 PM ET
Categories:  Virginia  
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Comments

This cannot possibly stand. I suspect the majority of married Virginia residents were not married in Virginia. So does that mean their marriage is invalid? Are they committing tax fraud when they file their income taxes as a married couple? Are they committing a crime when a spouse is on the other spouses health plan?

Posted by: buffysummers | July 8, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Wait, so if I move to Virginia, I will have to get remarried? Wow... that's... I don't know what that is. I hope the new influx of marriage license fees will be put towards education. Or legal fees.

Posted by: capecodner424 | July 8, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Excellent reporting there, Washington Post. Read and report on the ruling please.

The headline and blog post read "Marry outside Va. and it may not count" but what they should read is "Marry outside Va. on a Va. marriage license and it may not count." That's a no-brainer. You have to get a marriage license for the jurisdiction in which you are getting married.

Posted by: rnorwood01 | July 8, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

You're kidding me right? Please tell me Cuccinelli is not that, for lack of a better word, stupid.

Let's take the inability to post decisions up on the Commonwealth's website out of the picture for a second. Does our lovely AG realize people get married all over these days? Or even that VA is a state with a large transient population -- military, college students, etc.? I'm confused

Posted by: townhousekids | July 8, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

rnorwood01 is right -- the Washington Post strikes again with their belief that you shouldn't let the facts get in the way of a good headline (or story).

The last paragraph of the Opinion is in pretty plain English, but I'll re-state it:
If you have a Virginia marriage license (and/or have asked someone authorized only by the Commonwealth of Virginia to officiate), generally isn't a legal marriage unless you are actually in the Commonwealth for the ceremony.

I'd be willing to bet the same is true for most states but I haven't had a chance to research it yet. Whether or not it's ever enforced is another question, as well.

Posted by: IndolentCin | July 8, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Bad headline. Without the misinterpretation this wouldn't even be a story.

Posted by: csdiego | July 8, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

@csdiego -- no, it wouldn't. None of the Opinions appear to be out of line. Apparently the Post's political biases aren't kept to the OpEd pages.

Posted by: IndolentCin | July 8, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

This is amazing, beyond amazing. This idiot has come to the conclusion that Loving does not matter. You can see this is how he is going to attack everything he decides is not in his world.

Virginia, get ready to spend more millions of dollars on these stupid tactics. That is if he does not decide that U.S. currency is not valid in Virginia either.

Posted by: PamDB | July 8, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

This guy is just insane with the crap he's been putting out ... this is what he focuses his time on? He needs to be replaced with someone competent and focused on the future, not undoing the past.

Posted by: dasha2 | July 8, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Wow, this bit of non news got 2 blog pots in the WaPo today! And was totally written to get people in an uproar. As far as I know you have to get a marriage license in the state in which you are having your wedding ceremony. So, these people should have gotten a MD license not a VA license. Pretty simple.

Posted by: Vienna8425 | July 8, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

The Post's founder must be turning over in her Grave! Bring back the bumper sticker, "I DON'T BELIEVE THE POST"!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Jimbo77 | July 8, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm no fan of Mr. Cuccinelli, but I do believe the WaPo owes an apology for the sloppy reporting and sensationalistic headline-writing.

Posted by: ceebee2 | July 8, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

I agree with those above who find the headline very misleading. I am no fan of Attorney General Cucinelli, but in this instance I am very sure he is legally correct. And I suspect that the same laws and rules apply in all or almost all other states.

Posted by: vklip1 | July 8, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Virginia IS screwed-up. What's next...another secession? Morons!

Posted by: flipper49 | July 8, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

This is case of poor communication that originated in the county clerk's office, or whatever agency issues marriage licenses, between the issuing employee and the happy couple who requested the license. I agree with those posts that if you obtain a marriage license in a specific jurisdiction, then it is only valid if the marriage takes place in THAT jurisdiction. DUH. This is the way it is here in California, which is a community property state.
So...the couple who obtained a marriage license in VA should have gotten married in VA, not in Maryland. Perhaps they should have obtained their marriage license in whatever county that Bethesda is in. Perhaps the clerk who issued the license should have TOLD the happy couple that the marriage must take place in VA.
Like I said...this is simply a communication issue.
I guess this should be a no-brainer, but hey...I'm only a Cali girl.

Posted by: kodonivan | July 8, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Just amazing to me that the Post allows the same FACTUALLY WRONG story to be posted in two places without any corrections!

What a piece of trash the Post has become.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 8, 2010 10:11 PM | Report abuse

just remember a whole bunch of morons voted for this idiot. I have to stop now since i,m not married I,m going drinking at a singles club. left the kids home with the nonwife.

Posted by: TardfarderMcnasty | July 8, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

Cuccinelli is a RETARD!

Posted by: starpopper | July 8, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Those thinking this is a non-issue due to the marriage license obtained in VA but the ceremony taking place in MD are misguided. Cuccinelli knows exactly what he's doing...he's trying to ban all marriages performed legally in other states so that he won't have to recognize gay marriages when they move to VA!

Now he's trying to insert himself into the Arizona immigration debate...Ken, take off your bias glasses, get off your high-moral horse and stay out of any & everything that's not directly related to your job in VA! We don't care that you have higher state & national aspirations and your form of narrow mindedness is not part of our collective future!

Posted by: starpopper | July 8, 2010 10:54 PM | Report abuse

*sigh* I'm going to agree - bad headline.

You get your wedding license in the county/jurisdiction where you get married. If I was getting married in Bethesda, I'd get the appropriate Montgomery County marriage license and officiant - it wouldn't occur to me to get Virginia licensure and officiants.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | July 8, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

Attorney General Cukoonelli is a piece of work, but this opinion is only common sense. What would be the mechanism for Virginia to recognize a marriage perfomed in another jurisdicition without a license from that jurisdiction? If the notion of state law being the governing authority for the performance of marriages has any meaning, the ruling makes sense.

Posted by: exgovgirl | July 8, 2010 11:41 PM | Report abuse

I think it's amusing how many of the "experts" posting here clearly didn't read the opinion. It sets forth the fact pattern presented to the AG by the Clerk of the Prince William County Circuit Court:

(a) A couple who reside in Virginia (b) obtain a marriage license in Virginia and (c) are married by a person authorized by the Commonwealth of Virginia but (d) the marriage ceremony takes place outside of Virginia.

It's obviously invalid. A Virginia marriage license is valid solely for a marriage ceremony conducted in Virginia, and someone who is authorized by Virginia to solemnize marriages has that authority only within the Commonwealth (because Virginia obviously cannot authorize someone to perform marriages in, for example, Maryland). The concept is the same as with a notary public, who generally cannot notarize documents or administer oaths outside of the state in which he is a notary, or with a police officer, who generally has no authority outside of his jurisdiction (be that a state, county, whatever).

Posts like the one by "starpopper" are just stupidity. The sloppy reporting by the Washington Post doesn't help, though. I realize that the Post's standards have declined severely in the past several years, but I thought they still at least required some basic minimum intelligence in their reporters and editors. Guess I was wrong.

Posted by: 1995hoo | July 9, 2010 1:41 AM | Report abuse

IndolentCin wrote in part:
"The last paragraph of the Opinion is in pretty plain English, but I'll re-state it:
If you have a Virginia marriage license (and/or have asked someone authorized only by the Commonwealth of Virginia to officiate), generally isn't a legal marriage unless you are actually in the Commonwealth for the ceremony. "
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I'm no fan of WaPo, but IndolentCin is incorrect in stating that the last sentence is in plain English. That sentence is not comprehensible. Perhaps IndolentCin was fooled by the part of the sentence in the parentheses; however, if you remove the parenthetical words, then what you get is:
"If you have a Virginia marriage license ... generally isn't a legal marriage unless you are actually in the Commonwealth for the ceremony."
So: SOMETHING "generally isn't a legal marriage ..."; but WHAT?! The sentence doesn't say; and it is PRECISELY because it doesn't identify that thing that "generally isn't a legal marriage ..." that the sentence doesn't make sense. If I had to guess, I'd say that the document was not proof read before being issued.

Posted by: nbahn | July 9, 2010 2:39 AM | Report abuse

This is really bad reporting/blogging. I have a question. Would MD even recognize the marriage? NO. MD would NOT recognize a marriage taking place in Bethesda if the license was issued in PG county, let alone if it was issued in VA. MD requires that the license be issued and the marriage take place in the same county. In VA you can marry anywhere in the state on a VA license. These regulations have been around for decades.

The fail to put the opinion up the opinion up on the web might be an issue if the opinion ruled on a ambiguous point, but it appears to only restate the obvious.

Posted by: tianyisun | July 9, 2010 6:16 AM | Report abuse

Did you people even read the article? It states that marriages performed OUTSIDE of the jurisdiction of the license may not be valid, and I'm not sure why anyone would get a Virginia license and get married in Maryland. Just get a license from the jurisdiction where the ceremony is performed, and it will be recognized in Virginia.

As a side note, I will agree the current Virginia AG is a twit.

Posted by: Ireland2 | July 9, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

so I am not married after all? Whoopee!!!

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | July 9, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Ok, people, lets read this again. This is not about people who get a VA license and then get married else where. In the very first sentence "Marriages that take place outside of Virginia are not valid in the Commonwealth, even if the couple has obtained a legal Virginia marriage license and the ceremony is performed by a person authorized to do so in Virginia,"

Notice the words "even if". Now remove that phrase as it is only a qualifier, not the actual meat of the sentence. It reads Marriages that take place outside of Virginia are not valid in the Commonwealth". That last bit only means that even if you also get a marriage license for VA, an out of state marriage may not count.

VA added an amendment to DOMA that states: Virginia's amendment not only bans same-sex marriage and civil unions, but arguably renders any state recognition of private contracts entered into by unmarried couples unconstitutional.

Therefore, since a marriage is a private contract, even heterosexual ones may not be recognized if VA doesn't want too.

Posted by: schnauzer2 | July 9, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Hey Jimbo, I remember those stickers you refer to ("I Don't Believe The Post").

They were invariably affixed to the bumpers of barge-like Buicks and Oldsmobiles driven (slowly)by Septuagenarians.

Posted by: fluxgirl | July 9, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Ken Cuccinelli is a total buffoon. The guy has something seriously wrong with his brain that causes him to take whatever path will cause the Commonwealth of Virginia the greatest degree of embarrassment.

I believe he takes his cues from Governor Le Petomaine.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | July 9, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

The original post needs to be corrected.

I was married in Bethesda too. But, my fiance and I went to my VA county first, and attested to our intent to marry in the presence of a VA county official and then applied for a Montgomery County license using the VA documents.

Why would we have used a VA license in Maryland?! You have to have a marriage license from the county in which you are married. ANY state would require this.

The WaPo sinks ever lower.

Posted by: org2 | July 9, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Cuccinelli is obviously playing for the Republican masses. His opinion is aimed at the GLBT community that can marry in DC or elsewhere - just like Loving, he wants to make sure that everyone knows that he has the discretion to not allow them any marriage benefits in Virginia. He really would be a joke if he wasn't in such a high office.

Posted by: owenaja | July 9, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

I am a pastor who has conducted weddings for over 30 years in Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, and Virginia. The law in all of these places is that you must have a marriage license from the state/commonwealth where the marriage ceremony is taking place. A marriage license from Virginia cannot be used in Maryland, no matter who is performing the ceremony. In this particular matter, the Attorney General is correct.

Posted by: dennis7 | July 9, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I have been a pastor for over 30 years and have officiated at weddings in Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, and Virginia. The law in all of these places is that you must have a marriage license from the state/commonwealth where the marriage ceremony is taking place. A marriage license from Virginia cannot be used in Maryland, no matter who is performing the ceremony. In this particular matter, the Attorney General is correct.

Posted by: dennis7 | July 9, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Let's look at the situation that the opinion actually deals with.

1. A & B are residents of Virginia.
2. A & B Obtain a marriage license in Virginia.
3. A & B get Rev. C, a Virginia minister, to perform their marriage.
4. A & B exchange their vows IN BETHESDA, MARYLAND.

The problem here is that the couple didn't have a valid marriage license in Maryland, and that Virginia cannot license a marriage performed in Maryland. Is the marriage in question therefore legally invalid in Virginia (and, presumably, every other state)? Sure it is -- and I fail to see where there is even a question or controversy regarding this common sense ruling.

Posted by: RhymesWithRight | July 9, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

@nbahn: my apologies in that I left two words out of MY sentence. (As I stated in my post, I wasn't quoting the Opinion, I was paraphrasing). It should have read: "generally THE MARRIAGE isn't a legal marriage." I'm sorry that you didn't read my post, or the Opinion itself, carefully enough to understand that the sentence wasn't directly from the "Conclusion" paragraph (which I incorrectly referred to as the "last" paragraph. Mea culpa.)

Posted by: IndolentCin | July 9, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Can Post reporters and editors even read and comprehend the English language? Apparently not.

Or perhaps their zeal to demonize Cuccinelli short-circuited their cognitive functioning.

In any case, the reporter Helderman and the author of this post both deserve reprimand.

Posted by: thebump | July 9, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Cuccinelli and the Post - both Special Needs.

Posted by: irae | July 9, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

This brings to mind a different question altogether!

Never having had a destination wedding, or friends or family that had one--how does it work if you marry elsewhere? Out of the country, for example?

If you want to be wed in...Costa Rica, do you have to purchase your marriage license there too? Are you able to do so?

Regarding this ruling, does anyone actually have to report when/where they got married after the fact? I only bought the license and did it on the spot, so I truly haven't a clue.

Posted by: Skowronek | July 9, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

It's not like I want to give Cuckoo-Nellie the equivalent of a sharp object, but. . . . Virginia is a common law marriage state. If a couple live together and act like a married couple, they're married. And although I admit it's been a long time, I don't think that my wife and I were asked where we were going to get married when we got our Virginia marriage license.

Posted by: jlhare1 | July 9, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Please read and understand KC's opinion before writing about it.
This is a non-issue.
Isn't this analagous to filling out a Maryland state tax form if you live in Virginia?
That's right - doesn't make sense.
Is it too much to ask that people read the rules/law BEFORE they complain?
I wonder how much time they wasted trying to fight this.
Seems pretty straightforward - wherever you're planning to get married, learn and follow their rules.

Posted by: robjdisc | July 9, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Please read and understand KC's opinion before writing about it.
This is a non-issue.
Isn't this analagous to filling out a Maryland state tax form if you live in Virginia?
That's right - doesn't make sense.
Is it too much to ask that people read the rules/law BEFORE they complain?
I wonder how much time they wasted trying to fight this.
Seems pretty straightforward - wherever you're planning to get married, learn and follow their rules.

Posted by: robjdisc | July 9, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Just another stupid comment made by another stupid Virginian Republican. There is no shortage of them. What fools vote for these people. This state is embarassment. Its time to move.

Posted by: mobjack_bay | July 9, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I didn't have time to read all of the comments, but I hope I can shed some light on the issue. I recently obtained a marriage license and was married in Virginia. The website with the information explicitly says that the ceremony must be performed in Virginia by a religious official or an authorized magistrate or judge, in Virginia. When I got the license I was given a list of magistrates who performed the actual ceremony. The opinion issued by the Cuccinelli, merely goes into the fact that people have not been following those simple directions and going outside of Virginia to have the ceremony performed. Simple directions, that's all it takes. One can still be married if they have a magistrate preside over the actual ceremony by a magistrate (accross the st from most VA courthouses) and then one can still have a big party and ceremony wherever they choose as long as the actual marriage ceremony was done in VA by an authorized person. I'm not sure how much simpler the issue can be. Hope this helps.

Posted by: lexdis | July 9, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution covers marriages that take place in other states being honored by all other states, so long as they were legal there, so not to worry if you were legally married elsewhere. despite the ambiguity of the opinion, it is only talking about whether a VA marriage license is good for a marriage in MD, which it clearly is not, not whether a MD marriage on a MD license is recognized in VA, which it must be under the Constitution.

Posted by: JoeT1 | July 9, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Wonder where Cuccinelli was married. Hope it was Delaware.

Posted by: blimy1 | July 9, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Wonder where Cuccinelli was married. Hope it was Delaware.

Posted by: blimy1 | July 9, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Wonder where Cuccinelli was married.

Posted by: blimy1 | July 9, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Oops. But I do wonder.

Posted by: blimy1 | July 9, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Nice job, WaPo. You threw out some moron bait and the Kooch-haters and anti-Virginia bigots swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

A special shout-out to mobjack_bay: don't let the gate bump you on the butt on your way out. Let us know if you need any help packing. I'm sure that you'll get lot of help from Virginians eager to see you leave.

Posted by: hisroc | July 9, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Cuccinelli is a moron, but when does a valid Virginia marriage license EVER have purchase in Maryland? Good call by Cuccinelli, bad call by the WaPo.

Posted by: therev1 | July 9, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Republicans and their Tea Party cohorts have one goal: to lead the country into total chaos and anarchy...so Americans will accept an all-powerful, non-elected corporate government that will answer to no one...but the bosses of corporations like BP and Halliburton.

Posted by: jjedif | July 9, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

jjedif,

And your comment is related to marriage licenses how?

Try this version out:

Democrats and their Socialist cohorts have one goal: to lead the country into total chaos and anarchy...so Americans will accept an all-powerful, welfare state government that will answer to no one...but the bosses of organizations like the Democratic Party and the unions.

How stupid does that sound to you? Your version is just as asinine.

Posted by: hisroc | July 9, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Question: If two Virginians get married in Maryland, where do they bury the survivors?

Answer: There ARE NO survivors.

Posted by: Apostrophe | July 9, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Follwup story:
Fisherman discovers that Virginia fishing license issued by Virginia government official in West Point, Virginia, cannot be used in West Point, Georgia.

Businessman gets license in Arlington County Virginia from Arlington County official in Fort Worth, Texas, and discovers that it is void in Arlington, Texas.

Lawyer gets license from appropriate officials of the Virginia State Bar in Billings, Montana, but discovers that he cannot use it to practice law in Montana.

To writer of story: It is probably a most excellent idea to actually read the opinion before inserting opinion about story.

Posted by: paladin7c | July 10, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

What about a dog license? My dog has a Maryland/MoCo license...if I take her to Virginia, will she be considered legally licensed? Or will I need to obtain a Va. license so she can be walked and do her "business" there?

Posted by: DecafDrinker | July 10, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

My understanding is that the question posed to him was (paraphrased) "If a person gets a VA marriage license, and is married by a person who is legal to officiate a marriage in VA...BUT they get married in MD, is the marriage valid?"

His answer was in essence "No, the marriage is not valid".

The news article seemed to have left out the tidbit about trying to use a VA marriage license to get married in MD.

As per both VA and MD .gov sites, A marriage license is only good for getting married in that specific state where the marriage license was applied for. (in MD, it even has to be for the specific county)

If someone wants to get married in another state, they need to get a marriage license from that state. As far as I know, all states work like this.

Posted by: Tigz | July 14, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

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