Monday, June 5, 2006

Foreign citizens' marriage licenses withheld

Couples with all available government documents are among the victims

The Tennessean reports in this article that many county clerks in Tennessee are denying marriage licenses to foreign citizen couples when one or both of the betrothed is not eligible under federal law for a Social Security number.

"Across the state, immigrant couples are being denied marriage licenses. In some cases one or both of the pair are undocumented. But even some legal immigrants have had difficulty obtaining licenses because of the identification requirements at some county clerks' offices."

"The policy of recording Social Security numbers on marriage licenses came about in response to a federal law that was designed to make it easier for the government to track down parents who refuse to pay child support."

"Tennessee passed a law in 1997 requiring couples that want a marriage license to provide their Social Security numbers to their county clerks. Many counties began restricting marriage licenses for those people without Social Security numbers sometime after that."

"To obtain a Social Security card, a person must be an American citizen or legally be allowed to work in the United States, Social Security Administration spokesman Frank Viera said. That means even some people legally in the United States, such as those here on tourist or student visas, can not obtain Social Security numbers."

The article quotes Hedy Weinberg, director of the Tennessee office of the American Civil Liberties Union, as saying the denial of marriage licenses to expatriates without Social Security numbers is an incorrect interpretation of the state statute and is also an unconstitutional denial of a person's fundamental right to marry.

The article also quotes the Rev. Joseph Breen of St. Edward Church, which is considering busing parishioners to Kentucky to obtain marriage licenses but is also no longer requiring couples to obtain a license from the state before performing a marriage ceremony.

Focus: Justice

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