Marriage license change advances

A bill allowing inmates to apply for marriage licenses using an affidavit cleared the Missouri Senate on Thursday and now is in the House.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Parson (R-Bolivar), a former Polk County sheriff, would modify the state law that now requires both people to apply in person for a marriage license.

The change was sought by the Missouri Recorders Association, after the ACLU sued three Missouri recorders of deeds because state prison inmates who wanted to get married weren’t able to get marriage licenses.

Cole County Recorder Larry Rademan was the first, after the Jefferson City Correctional Center changed its policies and required that those seeking access to the prison complete a form that requested personal information, including a Social Security number.

When Rademan refused to provide that number, he was denied access — and the ACLU sued him and the Corrections department.

Last March, U.S. District Chief Judge Fernando Gaitan ruled that Missouri’s law requiring that marriage licenses be signed “in the presence of the recorder of deeds or their deputy” is unconstitutional “as applied to situations where one or both applicants for a marriage license is incarcerated.”

Last month, U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner issued a similar ruling in an ACLU lawsuit against Moniteau County Recorder Michele A. Higgins, involving inmates at the Tipton Correctional Center.

And last summer, Judge Catherine D. Perry of the St. Louis-based Eastern District made the same finding in a case against Washington County Recorder Judy Creswell Moyers, involving the Potosi Correctional Center.

All three federal court rulings have said marriage is a fundamental right, even for those in prison, and have ordered the individual recorders to get affidavits that a license applicant is incarcerated.

The Senate-passed bill requires the recorder to provide a form “which includes the necessary information for the recorder of deeds to issue a marriage license.”

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