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    The government should collect information on households in a secular way and for secular purposes only. Marriage is a religious practice that must be separate from the state. The practice of the government issuing marriage licenses and marriage certificates must be replaced with secular household partnership registration.


    A marriage license is a legal permit issued by a government that indicates two people are allowed to marry. To get a marriage license, a person must provide their identification to show they are old enough, and a person must declare if they’ve been married before. If a person was married, that person must provide proof that the other marriage ended — a divorce, dissolution, annulment, or death certificate of their former spouse.

    Why does the government care? There are some legitimate secular reasons for the government to know about relationships, but there are no legitimate reasons for the government to be involved in regulating marriage.

    The current practice of the government issuing marriage licenses and marriage certificates is a violation of the right to civil government. For countries that don’t recognize that right but have a more vague principle of separation of religion and government, it violates that principle.

    The practice of issuing marriage licenses and marriage certificates must be replaced with a secular household partnership registration. This does not replace the practice of marriage itself — people who want to be married would be doing that with the support of religious institution. Each religious institution could then decide whether to demand that people obtain a secular household partnership registration certificate prior to marrying them. There are benefits to doing that but it wouldn’t be required by law.

    The state government must designate an office to handle secular household partnership registration. The federal government must provide a mechanism for states to share this information with each other.

    Household partnership registration is for adults only. Adults that wish to register their partnership would fill out the registration form and submit it to the appropriate state office along with supporting documentation. The registration form would include information about the identity of each of the adults.

    Household partnership registration is exclusive — a person can only be registered in a single partnership at a time. However, a partnership registration can be amended or cancelled to allow a person to exit that partnership and possibly enter into a new one with someone else in the future. If a registration is submitted and the government finds that one or more of the people attempting to register is already registered in an existing household partnership, the registration must be rejected and the cause disclosed to all applicants. Whoever is in an existing partnership would have to exit that partnership first and then attempt to register again.

    If there are no issues with the registration application, the government would then respond with a certificate that the action has been taken (either registering as partners or deregistering to end a partnership). This replaces the marriage certificate or divorce certificate.


    When a person dies, the government issues a death certificate and if the person was registered in a partnership the government automatically issues a deregistration with death listed as the cause.

    If the deceased person did not prepare a will or an estate plan, there may be laws that govern the disposition of the deceased person’s property. Those laws might reference the person’s spouse, which means the government needs to know who is married. However, those laws could be rewritten to reference the person’s partners instead.

    If a person dies and there are no registered partners, this would be treated the same as if there is no husband or wife today. For example, the government might check if there are any children to take the property, and otherwise the government would keep it and dispose of it.


    Any insurance policies that currently ask about marriage status should be asking about household partnerships instead. It would be up to the insurance companies to decide if they want to recognize religious marriages without secular partnership registration, and what documentation they need from the religious institutions for that.


    When parents or legal guardians enroll their children in public schools, and those schools need to know information about the household, the schools must ask only about legal guardians, emergency contacts, and adults authorized to pick up the children. The schools must not ask about household partnerships or marriage, it’s none of their business.


    Marriage is defined and practiced by religious institutions. A religious institution would be a specific sect of a religion that such as a church or association of churches, or a specific synagogue or association of Rabbis, and so on. Although it is a religious concept, not everyone agrees on how it should be practiced so we talk about religious institutions here instead of religions to indicate the social framework in which people actually practice their religion.

    Trying to force a religious view on others, especially via government, is a violation of their right to religion. Therefore when religious people disagree about how to practice their religion, the right thing to do is to form separate sects and separate institutions. People may discuss or argue about what is the right way, but forcing a view on others is crossing a line.

    Therefore, if a religious institution states that marriage is only between one husband and one wife, that’s what it is for people who practice that religion with that institution. If a religious institution states that marriage can be between any two people, that’s what it is for people who practice that religion with that institution.

    Multiple partners vs polygamy

    What about multiple adults who want to register as partners together?

    We need to clarify the terminology. Polygamy is the practice of having more than one spouse at a time, a plurality of husbands or wives instead of one husband and one wife. A spouse is a marriage partner. Marriage is a religious institution. This proposal for household partnership registration is intended to end the government’s involvement in marriage and return the concept of marriage to the religious institutions.

    Polygamy can be in the form of polygyny (one male and two or more females), polyandry (one female and two or more males), or polygynandry (a group of at least four people, two or more males and two or more females).

    Therefore, if a religious institution states that polygamy is prohibited, then it’s prohibited for people who practice that religion with that institution. If a religious institution states that polygamy is allowed, then those are the rules for people who practice that religion with that institution.

    However, since the government would not be regulating marriage anymore under this proposal, we need to make a distinction between multiple partners and polygamy. Polygamy may be allowed or prohibited by a religious institution. The government, however, should make no such judgements. The government must allow two or more adults to register as household partners. This is not polygamy, because it’s not marriage. It doesn’t mean that the partners have an intimate sexual relationship. They might, or they might not. It could be a brotherhood or a sisterhood. It could be lifelong friends who never found a mate and decided to merge finances and housework and partner up.

    The strongest objection to polygamy is a religious objection, and religious institutions should be free to decide for themselves whether to allow it or not. Laws prohibiting polygamy must be revoked because they are both a violation of the right to religion (preventing people who practice a religion that allows polygamy from practicing polygamy) and a violation of the right to civil government (because the prohibition of polygamy is religious in nature).

    If two people are already registered as partners and they want to add a third person, then all three would submit a new registration to replace the prior registration. If any of the partners is already registered as a partner with someone else, and that partnership is not mentioned in the new registration as being replaced by it, the registration would be rejected with that cause and this would protect people from entering into a partnership with someone who, unknowingly to them, is not exclusive. And if somehow it happens anyway, because someone used another name or identity to circumvent the safety checks, intentionally submitting a false application would be considered a crime of fraud.

    Bigamy, partnerships, and fraud

    Bigamy is the crime of marrying someone while already being married to someone else. Marriage is a religious concept so laws prohibiting bigamy must be revoked. Each religious institution that practices marriage and prohibits bigamy will have its own social consequences for people who commit bigamy.

    The government’s concern should be household partnerships. The laws that enact household partnership registration must also require that registration is exclusive. The registration form must include an affirmation from each applicant that they are entering into an exclusive partnership and are not currently registered in any other household partnership. This protects people from entering into partnerships with people who are secretly already in another partnership. Submitting a fraudulent partnership registration would be a crime, but it doesn’t need to be a specific crime — the affirmations on the registration form would mean that intentionally false applications would be considered a crime of fraud. It’s the secular equivalent of protecting people from bigamy.

    Therefore, while bigamy would no longer be a crime, fraud is still a crime and fraud in partnership registration is still a crime.

    Religious institutions who want to protect their practitioners from bigamy could demand that adults asking to be married provide a copy of a household partnership registration certificate showing only them and their intended spouse. This would be the equivalent of a marriage license, showing that they are eligible to be married, with the difference being that it is the religious institution which determines the eligibility criteria and the state provides general-purpose documentation that can be used by the religious institution.


    Historically, the practice of polygamy is associated with abuse of women and children. However, the practice of marriage is also associated with abuse of women and children — polygamy has been illegal in the United States for a long time and yet nearly half of all women experience intimate partner violence (see CDC report from 2022). A smaller percentage of children is abused each year, but in most confirmed child abuse cases the abuser is the parent (see national statistics by National Children’s Alliance).

    Furthermore, while bigamy has been illegal and adultery is also illegal in some states, a significant percentage of married people still have affairs. Whether it is legal or not, that behavior is damaging to the relationship and if there are children in the household, it has a negative impact on the children.

    Under this proposal, where the government allows two or more adults to register as household partners and religious institutions are free to allow or prohibit polygamy, there is no change to the expectation that people do not abuse each other. Adult abuse and child abuse would still be a crime that is prohibited by law. Similarly, there is no change to the expectation that only adults have consensual sexual relations. Sex with minors would still be a crime that is prohibited by law.

    Freedom of religion

    There is a limit to the freedom of religion. A religion that requires (vs merely allows) its adult practitioners to marry children and have sex with those children would be in conflict with the secular laws. The secular prohibition on sex with minors would not be considered a violation of the right to civil government because it is not based on a religious belief, it is based on empirical evidence that intimate relationships between adults and children are harmful to the children. It would also not be considered a violation of the right to religion because the right to religion is the right to peaceful practice of religion, and committing a crime is not peaceful.

    The freedom of religion is limited to religions that don’t require their practitioners to abuse others or commit secular crimes. At the very least, the right to travel means that people who want to practice such a religion can travel out of the country and do that somewhere else.

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