The Marriage Game (2005) | -

The Marriage Game

By Rev. Steven A. Stone (2005)

As a minister, I have always been surprised at how hard the government and most religions fight against marriage.  In the 1980s, My wife and I looked for months before we could find someone that was willing to marry a us as a couple with different religions.  At the time I was publicly Jewish and she was publicly Christian.  No Jewish rabbis in the area would marry any Jew unless the proposed spouse would go through the conversion to Judaism.  None of the Christian ministers or priests wanted to solemnize a marriage that they were convinced would not last because of religious differences.  Justice of the peace weddings were not the same in NC as other states.  Only magistrates that are on Duty could perform weddings as a justice of the peace.  That meant that any non-standard wedding must be done downtown at the courthouse in the magistrate’s office.  Not the wedding that every couple dreams about.  So in the 1980s Raleigh NC was not the place for any type of marriage other than the basic mono-religious ceremony with a family minister presiding.  

We got lucky.  We found a Lutheran minister that was a friend of a friend and he agreed to talk to us.  After we had long talks and filled out compatibility questionnaires, and so on, he agreed to solemnize our wedding.  We were lucky.  At that time, Most couples back then had to do the courthouse official wedding, then have a family friend that they respected literally perform the wedding in front of their family as if it was a religious service. Now things have changed.  

North Carolina has always been very open about what a minister is.  Their loose interpretation of minister is mostly due to the old southern custom of family churches.  Often the father would be the minister and the rest of the family would be the congregation.  Basically there are 3 things that NC recognizes that will make you a minister.  First you have to be ordained by any existing church, such ordination being an actual ceremony, not just a mail order piece of paper.  Second, if you have a congregation of 3 or more people that consider you their minister, you are a their minister.  Again, this part of the law was made for the family churches.  Third, if you are the pastor of a recognized church, you are a minister.  

 In the 1990s and 2000s hundreds of people went thru basic ordination rituals performed by representatives of dozens of alternative religion churches throughout the US. The only one that NC does not recognize according to the written law is the ULC, or Universal Life Church.  This is not because of the church itself, but because their ordination is simply send in money and we send you a certificate.  A superior court case heard and judged the ULC ordinations insufficient for marriage solemnizations.  It is my understanding that there is currently a court case to get that decision overturned.  

In North Carolina anyone that has met the qualifications as listed above may solemnize or legalize marriages.  8 years after our initial wedding, my wife and I had a second wedding in our true religions.  She had a Wiccan priestess, and I had a Kabballic priest stand before us.  We had dozens of our friends with us and had a true Pagan wedding.  It was as important to us as the first wedding was to our family.  In this case, we had already done all the legal paperwork and were considered legally married, but if we had needed it to be, our second wedding would have been legally recognized. 

Now there is another controversy brewing about weddings.  The issue of unisex marriages has become the issue of the year.  It is the most ridiculous controversy I have ever heard, and yet it is one of the most emotional issues of this entire year.  

North Carolina law specifically states that marriage is between one man and one woman. It does not allow for group marriages, nor does it allow for unisex marriages.  I personally disagree with the law.  To my understanding, the laws are made to support and protect the public, not to decide their religious doctrine.  The laws of Marriage are designed to make things easier for life mates should one of them become ill, injured or die.  Marriage laws do not make you a good Christian or Jew, or Hindi, or anything else; they just give you the right to share your property and raise your children with someone you love.  That is the ridiculous part of the controversy.  Those opposed to same sex marriages are not opposed to the people involved being together, they are opposed to religions recognizing the union.  Laws do not make religions recognize anything.  Don’t believe me? Ask a Catholic priest about birth control.  

Now, what do we do about it?  Should we even care?  Is it our fight?  Of course it is our fight.  Laws that abridge the freedoms of choice are the fight of every citizen.  The constitution of the United States is based on freedoms of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The constitution of North Carolina goes even further.  It promises  all persons are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor, and the pursuit of happiness.”  By saying all persons, it gives no room for gender bias or separation.

As soon as rights start to vanish, and people start to judge others by their own standards, we run the risk of falling into the mob rule that endangers all democracies.  Some organized effort must be made to safeguard our freedoms at every turn.  The freedom of marriage can never be harmful to an outsider.  So why is same sex marriage considered so dangerous?  Because of religious beliefs. Because so many people that don’t ever really read the original text of the bible believe that the current interpretation means that homosexuality is a sin, and sinners should not be married.

So, because the church does not like it, the state does not allow it.  I guess the idea of separation of church and state must have been removed from the constitution when we were not looking. 

The following are excerpts of the laws concerning marriage in NC and the constitution of the state:

                         Chapter 51.


                         Article 1.

                       General Provisions.

§ 51-1.  Requisites of marriage; solemnization.

  A valid and sufficient marriage is created by the consent

of a male and female person who may lawfully marry, presently to

take each other as husband and wife, freely, seriously and

plainly expressed by each in the presence of the other, either:

       (1)      a.   In the presence of an ordained minister

                 of any religious denomination, a minister

                 authorized by a church, or a magistrate; and

            b.   With the consequent declaration by the

                 minister or magistrate that the persons are

                 husband and wife; or

       (2)  In accordance with any mode of solemnization

            recognized by any religious denomination, or

            federally or State recognized Indian Nation or


Marriages solemnized before March 9, 1909, by ministers of the

gospel licensed, but not ordained, are validated from their

consummation. (1871-2, c. 193, s. 3; Code, s. 1812; Rev., s.

2081; 1908, c. 47; 1909, c. 704, s. 2; c. 897; C.S., s. 2493;

1945, c. 839; 1965, c. 152; 1971, c. 1185, s. 26; 1977, c. 592,

s. 1; 2000-58, ss. 1, 2; 2001-14, ss. 1, 2; 2001-62, ss. 1, 17;

2002-115, ss. 5, 6; 2002-159, s. 13(a); 2003-4, s. 1.)

§ 51-1.1.  Certain marriages performed by ministers of

       Universal Life Church validated.

  Any marriages performed by ministers of the Universal

Life Church prior to July 3, 1981, are validated, unless they

have been invalidated by a court of competent jurisdiction,

provided that all other requirements of law have been met and

the marriages would have been valid if performed by an official

authorized by law to perform wedding ceremonies. (1981, c. 797.)


§ 51-1.2.  Marriages between persons of the same gender not


  Marriages, whether created by common law, contracted, or

performed outside of North Carolina, between individuals of the

same gender are not valid in North Carolina. (1995 (Reg. Sess.,

1996), c. 588, s. 1.)

§ 51-7.  Penalty for solemnizing without license.

  Every minister, officer, or any other person authorized

to solemnize a marriage under the laws of this State, who

marries any couple without a license being first delivered to

that person, as required by law, or after the expiration of such

license, or who fails to return such license to the register of

deeds within 10 days after any marriage celebrated by virtue

thereof, with the certificate appended thereto duly filled up

and signed, shall forfeit and pay two hundred dollars ($200.00)

to any person who sues therefore, and shall also be guilty of a

Class 1 misdemeanor. (R.C., c. 68, ss. 6, 13; 1871-2, c. 193, s.

8; Code, s. 1817; Rev., ss. 2087, 3372; C.S., s. 2499; 1953, c.

638, s. 1; 1967, c. 957, s. 5; 1993, c. 539, s. 415; 1994, Ex.

Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 2001-62, s. 7.)


We, the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for the preservation of the American Union and the existence of our civil, political and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those blessings to us and our posterity, do, for the more certain security thereof and for the better government of this State, ordain and establish this Constitution. 



That the great, general, and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and established, and that the relations of this State to the Union and government of the United States and those of the people of this State to the rest of the American people may be defined and affirmed, we do declare that:

Section 1. The equality and rights of persons. 

We hold it to be self-evident that all persons are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor, and the pursuit of happiness.

Sec. 2. Sovereignty of the people. 

All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.

Sec. 3. Internal government of the State. 

The people of this State have the inherent, sole, and exclusive right of regulating the internal government and police thereof, and of altering or abolishing their Constitution and form of government whenever it may be necessary to their safety and happiness; but every such right shall be exercised in pursuance of law and consistently with the Constitution of the United States. 

Sec. 4. Secession prohibited. 

This State shall ever remain a member of the American Union; the people thereof are part of the American nation; there is no right on the part of this State to secede; and all attempts, from whatever source or upon whatever pretext, to dissolve this Union or to sever this Nation, shall be resisted with the whole power of the State.

Sec. 5. Allegiance to the United States. 

Every citizen of this State owes paramount allegiance to the Constitution and government of the United States, and no law or ordinance of the State in contravention or subversion thereof can have any binding force.

Sec. 6. Separation of powers. 

The legislative, executive, and supreme judicial powers of the State government shall be forever separate and distinct from each other.

Sec. 7. Suspending laws. 

All power of suspending laws or the execution of laws by any authority, without the consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights and shall not be exercised. 

Sec. 8. Representation and taxation. 

The people of this State shall not be taxed or made subject to the payment of any impost or duty without the consent of themselves or their representatives in the General Assembly, freely given.

Sec. 9. Frequent elections. 

For redress of grievances and for amending and strengthening the laws, elections shall be often held.

Sec. 10. Free elections. 

All elections shall be free.

Sec. 11. Property qualifications. 

As political rights and privileges are not dependent upon or modified by property, no property qualification shall affect the right to vote or hold office.

Sec. 12. Right of assembly and petition. 

The people have a right to assemble together to consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to the General Assembly for redress of grievances; but secret political societies are dangerous to the liberties of a free people and shall not be tolerated.

Sec. 13. Religious liberty. 

All persons have a natural and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and no human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.

Sec. 14. Freedom of speech and press. 

Freedom of speech and of the press are two of the great bulwarks of liberty and therefore shall never be restrained, but every person shall be held responsible for their abuse.

Sec. 15. Education. 

The people have a right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the State to guard and maintain that right.

Sec. 16. Ex post facto laws. 

Retrospective laws, punishing acts committed before the existence of such laws and by them only declared criminal, are oppressive, unjust, and incompatible with liberty, and therefore no ex post facto law shall be enacted. No law taxing retrospectively sales, purchases, or other acts previously done shall be enacted. 

Sec. 17. Slavery and involuntary servitude. 

Slavery is forever prohibited. Involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the parties have been adjudged guilty, is forever prohibited.

Sec. 18. Court shall be open. 

All courts shall be open; every person for an injury done him in his lands, goods, person, or reputation shall have remedy by due course of law; and right and justice shall be administered without favor, denial, or delay.

Sec. 19. Law of the land; equal protection of the laws. 

No person shall be taken, imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, liberties, or privileges, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any manner deprived of his life, liberty, or property, but by the law of the land. No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws; nor shall any person be subjected to discrimination by the State because of race, color, religion, or national origin.

Sec. 20. General warrants. 

General warrants, whereby any officer or other person may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of the act committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are dangerous to liberty and shall not be granted. 

Sec. 21. Inquiry into restraints on liberty. 

Every person restrained of his liberty is entitled to a remedy to inquire into the lawfulness thereof, and to remove the restraint if unlawful, and that remedy shall not be denied or delayed. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.

Sec. 22. Modes of prosecution. 

Except in misdemeanor cases initiated in the District Court Division, no person shall be put to answer any criminal charge but by indictment, presentment, or impeachment. But any person, when represented by counsel, may, under such regulations as the General Assembly shall prescribe, waive indictment in noncapital cases.

Sec. 23. Rights of accused. 

In all criminal prosecutions, every person charged with crime has the right to be informed of the accusation and to confront the accusers and witnesses with other testimony, and to have counsel for defense, and not be compelled to give self-incriminating evidence, or to pay costs, jail fees, or necessary witness fees of the defense, unless found guilty.

Sec. 24. Right of jury trial in criminal cases. 

No person shall be convicted of any crime but by the unanimous verdict of a jury in open court. The General Assembly may, however, provide for other means of trial for misdemeanors, with the right of appeal for trial de novo.

Sec. 25. Right of jury trial in civil cases. 

In all controversies at law respecting property, the ancient mode of trial by jury is one of the best securities of the rights of the people, and shall remain sacred and inviolable. 

Sec. 26. Jury service. 

No person shall be excluded from jury service on account of sex, race, color, religion, or national origin. 

Sec. 27. Bail, fines, and punishments. 

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel or unusual punishments inflicted. 

Sec. 28. Imprisonment for debt. 

There shall be no imprisonment for debt in this State, except in cases of fraud.

Sec. 29. Treason against the State. 

Treason against the State shall consist only of levying war against it or adhering to its enemies by giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. No conviction of treason or attainder shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture.

Sec. 30. Militia and the right to bear arms. 

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; and, as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they shall not be maintained, and the military shall be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power. Nothing herein shall justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons, or prevent the General Assembly from enacting penal statutes against that practice.

Sec. 31. Quartering of soldiers. 

No soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war but in a manner prescribed by law.

Sec. 32. Exclusive emoluments. 

No person or set of persons is entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community but in consideration of public services.

Sec. 33. Hereditary emoluments and honors. 

No hereditary emoluments, privileges, or honors shall be granted or conferred in this State.

Sec. 34. Perpetuities and monopolies. 

Perpetuities and monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free state and shall not be allowed.

Sec. 35. Recurrence to fundamental principles. 

A frequent recurrence to fundamental principles is absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty. 

Sec. 36. Other rights of the people. 

The enumeration of rights in this Article shall not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people.

Sec. 37. Rights of victims of crime. 

(1) Basic rights. Victims of crime, as prescribed by law, shall be entitled to the following basic rights: 

(a) The right as prescribed by law to be informed of and to be present at court proceedings of the accused. 

(b) The right to be heard at sentencing of the accused in a manner prescribed by law, and at other times as prescribed by law or deemed appropriate by the court. 

(c) The right as prescribed by law to receive restitution. 

(d) The right as prescribed by law to be given information about the crime, how the criminal justice system works, the rights of victims, and the availability of services for victims. 

(e) The right as prescribed by law to receive information about the conviction or final disposition and sentence of the accused. 

(f) The right as prescribed by law to receive notification of escape, release, proposed parole or pardon of the accused, or notice of a reprieve or commutation of the accused's sentence. 

(g) The right as prescribed by law to present their views and concerns to the Governor or agency considering any action that could result in the release of the accused, prior to such action becoming effective. 

(h) The right as prescribed by law to confer with the prosecution. 

(2) No money damages; other enforcement. Nothing in this section shall be construed as creating a claim for money damages against the State, a county, a municipality, or any of the agencies, instrumentalities, or employees thereof. The General Assembly may provide for other remedies to ensure adequate enforcement of this section. 

(3) No ground for relief in criminal case. The failure or inability of any person to provide a right or service provided under this section may not be used by a defendant in a criminal case, an inmate, or any other accused as a ground for relief in any trial, appeal, postconviction litigation, habeas corpus, civil action, or any similar criminal or civil proceeding. (1995, c. 438, s. 1.)

© Virtual Reflections 2016