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Oct. 28, 2009

MSU law professors seek to modernize marriage with e-marriage project

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State University College of Law professors Adam Candeub and Mae Kuykendall have created the Legal E-Marriage Project, a clearinghouse for legislative proposals to institute "e-marriage."  

According to the team, the proposal refutes suggestions the state should get out of the marriage business and has the potential to alter the landscape of marriage culture wars. It may also solve the problems that arise when a great distance separates couples who wish to marry. 

Candeub and Kuykendall argue that states should permit a couple to marry under the laws of whichever location (in or out of the authorizing state) the couple choose.  The professors explain the couple's physical presence within the particular state authorizing their marriage has never been a requirement the states must impose in order to marry couples.

In fact, couples have for centuries married by proxy, mail and telephone. And the military has for many years recognized such marriages as legal for purposes of spousal allowances and death benefits, they explained. 

"The state needs to fight marital fraud, harness modern technology to make marriage more accessible and open its symbolic value to a variety of communities both online and off line," Kuykendall said. 

The proposal would allow same-sex couples to marry in California under the laws of Massachusetts or Vermont, if those states enacted e-marriage provisions.  Even though the couple's home state would not be required to recognize the marriage, the couple could celebrate their marriage at home, Candeub and Kuykendall said.

They added the same is true for couples who'd like to enter a covenant marriage, in which the couple can express a higher degree of commitment by agreeing to more onerous divorce procedures.  Covenant marriages are only offered by Louisiana and Arizona.  With a state e-marriage enactment, these states could offer the symbolic extra dimension to marriages that take place outside their borders. 

"[The proposal] is ground-breaking, an innovative approach to the entire issue of how law should regulate family relationships," said Bryan Wildenthal, professor at Thomas Jefferson Law School.

Details of the Legal E-Marriage Project can be found at  "E-Marriage: Breaking the Marriage Monopoly" can also be accessed at