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By W. Gardner Selby December 27, 2011

Columnist Gail Collins says Ron Paul doesn't believe in marriage licenses

New York Times op-ed columnist Gail Collins zinged presidential aspirant Ron Paul in a recent piece.

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Saying everyone agrees the Texas congressman has a great organization in Iowa, where voters caucus in January, Collins said that’s important, "particularly for a Republican candidate who doesn’t believe in marriage licenses, the war on drugs, the war in Afghanistan or prosecuting flag burners."

For this article, we evaluated her first claim — that Paul, who wedded his wife, Carol, in 1957, does not believe in marriage licenses.

Collins’ aide, Isabella Moschen, told us by email that Collins reached that conclusion based on a 2011 collection of Paul writings, "Liberty Defined." Separately, Paul campaign spokesman Gary Howard advised: "You should read the book."

We focused on Paul’s chapter in the book titled "Marriage." In it, Paul writes that most Americans "do not question the requirement to obtain a license to get married." But ideally, he says, each individual could define marriage as he or she pleases, so long as force is not used to impose the definition on others. It’s a matter of free speech, he says, in keeping with the First Amendment.

This week, Paul said he favors leaving regulations involving marriage up to the states, according to a Dec. 21, 2011, news article posted by The Boston Globe.

According to the newspaper, Paul said at a New Hampshire stop: "Why should the government be telling you what marriage is all about? You might have one definition. I have another definition." Speaking later to reporters, Paul said: "My personal opinion is government shouldn’t be involved. The whole country would be better off if individuals made those decisions and it was a private matter," the Globe reported.

In his book, Paul also points out that some states recognize couples as married without requiring that they get a license.

A "common law" marriage is generally defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as a non-ceremonial relationship that requires "a positive mutual agreement, permanent and exclusive of all others, to enter into a marriage relationship, cohabitation sufficient to warrant a fulfillment of necessary relationship of man and wife, and an assumption of marital duties and obligations."

We spotted this definition in an April 2011 web post by the National Conference of State Legislatures that also says nine states (Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Iowa, Montana, Oklahoma and Texas) recognize all common-law marriages and five states (Georgia, Idaho, Ohio, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania) recognize common-law marriages that were established before a certain date.

In Texas, according to information posted online by the Texas Department of State Health Services, a couple may register their "informal marriage" by appearing together before a county clerk to file such a declaration. Alternatively, a couple can establish their common-law marriage by showing they agree they are married, that they live together in the state and that they represent themselves to others that they are married to each other, the post says.

Paul refers to the licensing mandate in another part of the marriage chapter, saying: "The best approach is to make marriage a private matter. When we no longer believe that civilization is dependent on government expansion, regulating excesses, and a license for everything we do, we will know that civilization and the ideas of liberty are advancing."

"Licensing for social reasons reflects the intolerant person’s desire to mold other people’s behavior to their standard," Paul writes. "Both depend on the use of illegitimate government force."

We rate Collins’ claim True.

Our Sources

Ron Paul, book, "Liberty Defined, 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom," Grand Central Publishing, 2011, pp. 183-186.

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Columnist Gail Collins says Ron Paul doesn't believe in marriage licenses

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