How does Pennsylvania define legal marriage?

Pennsylvania's Definition of Legal Marriage

In Pennsylvania, legal marriage is defined as a civil contract by which two individuals take each other for husband and wife. This definition is in line with traditional common-law principles, but with the recognition of evolving societal norms and federal mandates, Pennsylvania's stance on marriage has undergone significant changes over time.

The Keystone State requires that both parties entering into marriage must do so voluntarily and without coercion. They must be of legal age, which is 18 years or older, or meet the requirements for minors with parental consent. Additionally, neither party can be currently married to another person, meaning all previous marriages must be legally dissolved before a new marriage can be recognized.

For a marriage to be considered legal in Pennsylvania, a marriage license must be obtained from the county in which one of the parties resides. The couple must wait a mandatory three-day period from the time the license is issued before they can solemnize their marriage. Once this waiting period has passed, the marriage ceremony can take place with an authorized officiant presiding. After the ceremony, the officiant must sign and return the marriage license to the county Marriage License Bureau for official recording.

Historically, Pennsylvania recognized common-law marriages as valid if certain conditions were met, such as cohabitation and a mutual understanding that the couple was married. However, as of January 1, 2005, common-law marriages were abolished in Pennsylvania for any relationships that began after that date. Current law upholds only those common-law marriages established before 2005.

In terms of who can marry, Pennsylvania has seen its definitions evolve significantly in recent years. Following the landmark Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, same-sex marriages became recognized in all states including Pennsylvania. This ruling invalidated any state laws that restricted marriage to only between one man and one woman.

It's also important to note that Pennsylvania prohibits marriages between close blood relatives which is consistent with many states' incest laws. Marriages involving bigamy or polygamy are also against the law.

Marriage laws in Pennsylvania are designed to uphold the integrity of marital unions while adapting to modern interpretations of equal rights and protections under the law. As such, they provide a framework for individuals looking to legally bind themselves through marriage within the state.

To explore further details regarding marriage laws in Pennsylvania, one may visit the official website of the Pennsylvania Department of Health (Pennsylvania Department of Health - Marriage and Divorce Certificates).