Is there a website where I can find out if a person is married and to whom?
In Minnesota, Minnesota Official Marriage System. But that may not be as current as the records from individual counties.
Marriage licenses are issued by each individual county in the state, can be used in any county in the state, and are recorded by the issuing county, and then updated into this statewide system.
Wow. My confidence in the American sense for privacy has just been eroded even further.
Why, are you saying that the German Standesämter don’t record and publish notices of marriages?
They record and certify them, but to my knowledge they don’t publish notices, and you don’t get access to other people’s Standesamt records as a matter of right. The old Aufgebot system whereby people had to publish a notice of their intent to get married several weeks in advance has been abolished.
The local courts (Amtsgerichte) run publicly accessible registers (Güterrechtsregister) of marriages with the property regime in the marriage - the idea here is that certain property regimes have implications for third parties (for instance, because one spouse may need the other spouse’s assent to dispose of assets), but the spouses may rely on these restrictions only if the restriction has been brought to the other party’s knowledge e.g. by entry in a register. But these entries are voluntary, and most people don’t bother to be entered.
I see. In every common-law country I’ve lived, notices of marriages are published in the government gazette, to which anyone could subscribe, and past issues of which are normally available at libraries. There may not be a publically searchable registry, though anyone with sufficient time and dedication could simply trawl through the past issues of the gazette to find out whether any two people were married in a certain jurisdiction.
Marriage is an issue of public record. It has nothing to do with privacy.
That is debatable and should not just be postulated apodictically. The stance that marriage is first and foremost a private thing which you should not be obliged to tell others about if you don’t wish to do so is at least a defensible. Maybe this issue is another instance of the Anglo-Saxon world vs the continental European culture taking a very different view on things. Interestingly enough, it’s just the opposite when it comes to names: Changing your name is very easy in the common law, where your name is regarded as yours over which you have control, whereas civil law traditions see a person’s name as having a social dimension and thus, typically, require people to provide good reason for getting a legal change of name.
I’m not aware of any such publishing requirement in Canada.
One reason that publication is done is as a way to avoid/catch bigamy, IIRC.
In the USA’s, it’s a legal status change and licensed by the states. It’s a matter of public record.
Using “apodictically”, plus your little diatribe, tells me you have personal feelings that steer you from accepting a fact.
What I meant by saying “apodictically” was that your statement was phrased generally. You referred to marriages as having nothing to do with privacy as a fact, and you used that as an argument. I accept that American law treats marriages as a matter of public record, and this treatment is a fact; but you were not referring to the way marriages are treated by a particular legal order, you were referring to marriages in general, and seeing them as a matter of public record is a valuation made by American law and not a fact. Stating that one could make the opposite valuation, regarding a marriage as a matter of privacy which is nobody else’s business and should thus not be publicly accessible information (as a lot of legal systems do) is neither a diatribe nor rejection of a fact.
The argument is similar to saying that all licensed drivers’ names would be listed online somewhere. It’s safe to assume that most adults in the US have legal drivers’ licenses and know that’s a matter of public record. But I still think we’d feel oogy about having the list public. The full census is kept under lock and key for 70 years; I think something similar for marriage would be welcomed.
Long story short: making public data public can too be an invasion of privacy.
My understanding is that when you get married in Sweden, they not only publish it but your address as well. That caused part of the estate controversy for author Stieg Larsson, who wrote The Girl with the Butterfly Tattoo books. He was in hiding due to death threats stemming from his investigative journalism, and he could not marry his long-time partner because his address would have been published. Then he up and died of a heart attack at age 50, and his partner is being left out in the cold by his family. So she’s supposedly holding back a laptop of his with part of a fourth novel in the series on it.
Before we get too carried away with what America does and America believes, let me say that marriage is a state by state legal issue and I didn’t know that *any *state put its marriage records up for public inspection online or offline.
In fact, I thought it was just the opposite. In most states, marriage licenses are part of what are called “vital records.” The only people who can access this information are the parties to the marriage, and attorneys or courts as part of their official duties. Well, that’s the basics and as said each state probably has some additional classes.
The public does not have access to marriage license as a matter of right in most states. It is not an American custom and never has been.
And of course, that was supposed to be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. We just watched Papillon again tonight, so I’m thinking butterflies.
In Illinois, marriage certificates are public record. It’s not like you can waltz down to the Cook County Bureau of Vital Statistics and browse their archives, but anyone can get a copy of a particular marriage certificate - I did it myself just a couple of weeks ago. I’ve also known people who have done it in Wisconsin. NY will at least let you request a copy for genealogical purposes; I don’t know about other purposes.
It used to be worse. Anyone could get a driver’s abstract and I recall as a kid they would put polling lists (those registered to vote) on telephone polls. The idea was the more public it was the less likely for fraud.
The Minnesota site simply gives you the name of the two people married. Hardly an invasion of privacy. You still have apply to get a copy of the certificate.
Things like marriage, death (especially death), birth, voting should be public records. This way there is a lot less likelihood of fraud, or in the case of death, crime. People aren’t going to be so glib when they know they are abusing the system, if they can be found out.
As has been said, it varies from state to state.
In California, it is possible to get a Confidential Marriage License, in which case the public cannot know about the marriage. See this official website for details:
Yes, I am familiar with the term and I a familiar with your position/approach.
I believe I clarified, despite a big honkin’ “public record” reference at the get-go.
You can opt not to be married legally. What part of this are you not getting?