Should a marriage license require a test?

To complete his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan had to take a 14 hour class and past a test of 100 questions. This was to obtain a hunting license so he could prepare an one hundred percent natural meal. He shot a wild boar, gutted, skinned and cooked it.

To drive to that hunting range to get his boar–or to the class and test site–he had to have studied a little pulp book of rules of the road and pass a 20 question test to get his drivers’ license.

To purchase a handgun, one must have a Handgun Safety Certificate, and the California Department of Justice, bureau of Firearms, provides a 52 page booklet of information necessary to pass the test.

To obtain a marriage license, you must answer these questions: What is your name? Your birth name? Address? Date of birth? State of birth? Previous marriage? If yes, ended how and when? Your father’s name and birthplace? Your mother’s name and birthplace?

Would you be able to answer all this questions to get a license to marry? Of course you would!

The clerk, as deputy commissioner of civil marriage, could then marry you on the spot –if you have the $61 license fee.

For this life-changing event, for this financial and emotional partnership, you need a license. But no advance knowledge of in what ways entering into a marriage will affect your legal rights and your legal obligations is required – nor is any such information given.

You will be given Information about genetics, AIDS and domestic violence when you apply for your marriage license, but not before then. The State Department of Health Services publishes a brochure for county clerks to distribute. Nothing requires that each of you read it. It contains the following:

1) A note regarding the Name Equality Act of 2007;
2) Advice for Living a Healthy Lifestyle;
3) Information concerning the possibilities of genetic defects and diseases and contain a listing of centers available for the testing and treatment of genetic defects and diseases.
4) Information concerning acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and the availability of testing for antibodies to the probable causative agent of AIDS.
5) Information concerning domestic violence, including resources available to victims and a statement that physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse, and assault and battery, are against the law;
6) Family Planning information; and
7) During and After Pregnancy information.

As a public service, a modest attempt to save public costs in these times when we need every dime we can muster to keep public services open, I propose a book of minimal education and a course of questions intended to help you know what you are getting into, so starry-eyed, so you will have fewer unpleasant surprises that could cause lasting hostility or suspicion or resentments between you both. For the emotional part of this marriage business, look to your therapist, your rabbi, your priest, your imam, your shaman, your mother, your father, your sister, your brother or your friends, your madrino, your padrino.


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