In a very interesting decision (with implications for same-sex marriage), a Louisiana court has held that the state must recognize a foreign marriage between cousins despite the fact that such a marriage would be null and void in the statem The 1st Circuit Appeals court ruled that there is no strong public policy that would bar such a recognition. The case involved a divorce case where the East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court judge declined jurisdiction.
The unhappy couple were married in Iran. Like most nations, cousins can marry in Iran. Since it is a valid marriage in Iran, the court ruled that it should be treated as valid in Louisiana. For the opinion, click here.
Louisiana has always accepted jurisdiction in divorce cases to avoid “limping marriages:” Comment b to Article 3520 explains:
Based on the universally espoused policy of favoring the
validity of marriages if there is any reasonable basis for doing so
favor matrimonii this Article authorizes the validation of marriages
that are valid either in the state where contracted or in the state where
the spouses were first domiciled as husband and wife This ancient
policy of favor matrimonii and favor validatis is well entrenched in
the substantive law of every state of the United States This policy is
equally important at the multi state level where it is reenforced by the
policy of avoiding limping marriages This Article enunciates this
policy of validation and defines its limits These limits are co
extensive with the strong public policy of the state whose law is
applicable to the particular issue under Article 3519 “
This analysis come close to a full faith and credit decision, even though this is made directly on state law. For years, gay and lesbian couples have argued that, once marriages are recognized in states like Massachusetts, other states must recognize the marriages even if they do not allow same-sex marriage. I have always been skeptical of this argument, believing that courts would recognize a public policy exception to the full faith and credit obligations.
The lower court may have been more concerned with same-sex marriage than the marriage of cousins in rendering its decision. However, the appellate court’s emphasis on a lack of a “strong public policy” against marriage by cousins would preserve the objection on same-sex marriage. On the subject of same-sex marriage, the state has expressed a strong policy in opposition.
For the full story, click here.