An article by Jerry Markon and Jamie Stockwell appeared in the The Washington Post today about Sham Marriages in Arlington County Virginia as well as other jurisdictions in Northern Virginia. According to Markon and Stockwell's article: Law-enforcement officials said the scheme took advantage of marriage laws they called lax in Virginia compared with those of the rest of the Washington region. Couples can apply for and be granted a license within minutes -- and can get married the same day. Yesterday, at the Arlington clerk's office, for example, a young couple, arm in arm, applied for a marriage license. Ten minutes later, a clerk asked them to raise their right hands and handed them a license. A sign nearby said: "Marriage licenses are $30 cash only. No checks, debit or credit cards."
Each state and the District of Columbia have laws for applying for a marriage license. A legal marriage provides benefits to both parties and is a legal, binding contract. Marriage licenses were not issued in the United States until the mid-1800s. In 1923, the Federal Government passed the Uniform Marriage and Marriage License Act. It was not until 1929 that every state had marriage license laws conforming to Federal standards. For the first time, every marriage in order to be legally recognized by the Federal Government had to be licensed.
Getting a marriage license is easy. In my home state of Virginia, the couple does not even have to be a resident of the state, there is no waiting period, and only some Virginia counties require a copy of a divorce decree if either of the applicants were married previously. You just have to show them your driver's license, pay $30 (cash), and you've got a license. The next day you could go to another county with another applicant and receive another marriage license.
This happens because there is no system in place to check to see if the applicants are married in another county much less another state. The proof of a prior marriage could be a divorce decree from two or three marriages back. The unsuspecting bride or groom wouldn't realize that there was a previous marriage that had not ended in divorce. Or depending on what was told to the other party, the appliciant could claim they had never been married. Getting away with multiple, fraudulent marriages in our country is a snap.
This system worked when it was first initiated because most people lived in rural communities where everyone knew one another, and punishment for bigamy was much more severe. Also most marriages at that time were religious unions and recorded in the family Bible.
Our archaic system is failing in our transitional, wireless-based society of today. Moreover, Internet dating sites have given many of these predators a whole new supply. Our fragile system is taken advantage of by serial bigamists sociopaths and con artists. Also fraudulent sham marriages, many that are bigamous, have become common among illegal aliens needing a green card and a path to citizenship.