Woman denied marriage license because her fiance is disabled

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Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4104
Woman denied marriage license because her fiance is disabled

John & Collette have been together 38 years and they intended to be married a few years ago. John had surgery in November 2009 and experienced complications that damaged his brain; he is now in a permanent vegetative state. Collette was named his guardian; as such, she could pull the plug on him if he was on life support (he isn't). She could also divorce him if they had already been married before his injury. But she can't marry him now that he's disabled. Collette argues that, as his guardian, she can can enter into any contract or perform any act that would effectuate the ward's wishes. No one doubts that John wished to marry Collette but he is now unable to speak or write to express those wishes now. Collette tried to apply for a marriage license but was denied because the county clerk said that John could not give his personal consent to the marriage. Should they be allowed to marry? Or do you think the court is correct that John would need to give his personal consent in some way?

A Woman Was Denied a Marriage License Because of Her Fianc?'s Disability | VICE United States

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6698

Someone who is in a permanent vegetative state is different than someone who is just disabled. I do not think someone should be able to get married to someone else that can not consent to being married. If the person was able to communicate that they wanted to be married, or had left legal written instructions they wanted to be married that would be one thing. Assuming that someone would want to be married is not the same and not acceptable in my opinion.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1722

I agree. The argument can be made that he could have married her at any point during the previous 30+ years. He didn't. Perhaps I would feel differently if they had a wedding planned, a marriage license, etc. Her wanting to marry him now, after all these years, seems a little shady to me. Social security benefits? Beneficiary of all assets?

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4138

Shoulda woulda coulda.... sorry I think if he really wanted to get married they had plenty of time. No I don't think anyone who does not have the mental capacity to consent should be married based on what someone else THINKS they wanted.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

Sad situation but I agree with everyone else, there are no grounds for them to be married. He cannot consent to marriage and I'll also agree that they had 3 decades to do so.

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1537

I wonder if there is some kind of common law marriage?

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4104

Common law marriage is not valid in Illinois or they wouldn't be in this situation. While my heart would love to see these folks get married after everything they've been through, I don't see how they can do it unless they find a way for him to communicate his desire to do so. I'm thinking about Stephen Hawking who uses a device that senses movements in his cheek to spell out words & synthesize speech, and there are other people who use a letter board where the computer tracks eye movements to do the same kind of thing with the words on a computer screen. If he can manage something like that, then I think they should give him the license; if not, then they're just out of luck.

To the question of Social Security benefits, in many cases, since benefits are calculated on family income, it's better for the patient to be single because they then generally have no income and few assets, so there's no reduction to their benefits that there might be with a working spouse who has more financial assets.