Jun 4, 2009

Concerning Marriageable Age in NH

The new marriage law in NH includes the following:

457:4 Marriageable. No male below the age of 14 years and no female below the age of 13 years shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage that is entered into by one male and one female, and all marriages contracted by such persons shall be null and void. No male below the age of 18 and no female below the age of 18 shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage between persons of the same gender, and all marriages contracted by such persons shall be null and void.
This would appear to present conflicting rights. However, civil marriage is concerned with the rights of spouses and parents. A young man of 14 and young woman of 13 are capable of having a child, and their rights as parents of the child would be enforced by their marriage. Two women or two men cannot have a child on their own save through procedures that are available to legal adults, which are persons aged 18 or older. Marriageable age is set to the lowest possible age two persons can make the choice to establish a larger family.

This does not relate in any way to Age of Consent, which is establish in NH by the following laws (which I have abridged specifically to present my opinion; 632-A:2 & 3 includes other aspects of sexual assault, including incest, rape, and abuse of power):

632-A:2 Aggravated Felonious Sexual Assault. –
I. A person is guilty of the felony of aggravated felonious sexual assault if such person engages in sexual penetration with another person under any of the following circumstances:
(k) When, except as between legally married spouses, the victim is 13 years of age or older and under 18 years of age and the actor is in a position of authority over the victim and uses this authority to coerce the victim to submit.
(l) When the victim is less than 13 years of age.
II. A person is guilty of aggravated felonious sexual assault without penetration when he intentionally touches whether directly, through clothing, or otherwise, the genitalia of a person under the age of 13 under circumstances that can be reasonably construed as being for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification.

632-A:3 Felonious Sexual Assault. – A person is guilty of a class B felony if such person:
II. Engages in sexual penetration with a person, other than his legal spouse, who is 13 years of age or older and under 16 years of age where the age difference between the actor and the other person is 4 years or more; or
III. Engages in sexual contact with a person other than his legal spouse who is under 13 years of age.

The penal code allows for law, often referencing “legal spouse” (which will include same-sex marriages in January 2010), and it does not make any distinction of the participating sexes.

I do not see any conflict between these two. Instead, I see marriageable age allowing for possible contingencies. Should teenaged homosexual couples be allowed to marry at a younger age? If at all possible, heterosexual teenage couples should not marry until age 18. Sure, sex comes before marriage, but a government has to allow for the legality of all ways of thinking, not just those of the dominant religious culture.

Why I Am Excited About NH (Even Though I Don’t Believe in Marriage Laws)

For more details on my opinion against Marriage Laws, see this post.

While I was aware that a Same-Sex Marriage bill was being discussed in state Congress, I did not become fully aware of the bill until it awaited the Governor’s signature, and subsequently did not receive it. When I heard the reasons why, I became excited.

The original bill (HB 436-FN-LOCAL) states, in reference to the freedom of religion, the following:

457:37 Affirmation of Freedom of Religion in Marriage. Members of the clergy as described in RSA 457:31 or other persons otherwise authorized under law to solemnize a marriage shall not be obligated or otherwise required by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of their right to free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or by part I, article 5 of the New Hampshire constitution.

Before he could sign this bill into law, Gov. Lynch required additional bills (HB 310-FN & HB 73) that further protected the rights of religions, which add to the above:

[457:37 I.] …Each religious organization, association, or society has exclusive control over its own religious doctrine, policy, teachings, and beliefs regarding who may marry within their faith.

[457:37] II. No religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, shall be required to participate in a ceremony solemnizing marriage in violation of the religious beliefs of such organization, association, or society.

[457:37] III. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religious organization, association, or society, or any individual who is managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to an individual if such request for such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges is related to the solemnization of a marriage, the celebration of a marriage, or the promotion of marriage through religious counseling, programs, courses, retreats, or housing designated for married individuals, and such solemnization, celebration, or promotion of marriage is in violation of his or her religious beliefs and faith. Any refusal to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges in accordance with this section shall not create any civil claim or cause of action or result in any state action to penalize or withhold benefits from such religious organization, association, or society, or any individual who is managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society.

IV. The marriage laws of this state shall not be construed to affect the ability of a fraternal benefit society to determine the admission of members pursuant to RSA 418:5, and shall not require a fraternal benefit society that has been established and is operating for charitable or educational purposes and which is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization to provide insurance benefits to any person if to do so would violate the fraternal benefit society’s free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and part I, article 5 of the New Hampshire constitution.

V. Nothing in this
chapter shall be deemed or construed to limit the protections and exemptions provided to religious organizations under RSA 354-A:18.

The addition bills also further clarify the rights of Jewish Rabbis, Quakers, Justices, and others related to the solemnization of civil marriage. What is created is a beautifully redundant way of saying: If you represent a religion and disagree with a particular marriage, you are not required by law to participate in any way in that marriage or celebration thereof.

Clear distinction is made between the rights of the government and the rights of religions in marriage. That is, a distinction is drawn between Civil Marriage and Religious Marriage. Although religious marriage is still required to abide by the laws set forth governing civil marriage (marriage in NH is still limited to two persons), civil marriage is no longer required to abide by the regulations of religious marriage.

This is a victory, but not the final solution. Ideally, while civil marriage is understandably limited to two persons (and only one union per person at a time), religious marriages will some day be allowed to include any number of desired persons without affecting civil law.