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Marriage in North Dakota


The North Dakota Century Code has a lot to say about marriage. The Century Code is the codification of all general and permanent law enacted since early statehood. Marriage in North Dakota is defined as "a personal relationship arising out of a civil contract between one man and one woman to which the consent of the parties is essential." Marriage laws change over the years. Recent well-publicized efforts to change laws to include same sex marriage, some successful, others not, attest to that. By law, many people in North Dakota are not allowed to marry. For example, parents and their children, or brothers and sisters. In fact, before the law was repealed in 1955, marriage between a white person and a Negro was not allowed.

An interesting glimpse at early marriage laws appears in a May, 1913 edition of the North Dakota Advocate newspaper. The article reports that the state legislature took "an advanced stand regulating marriage between incompetents. Senate Bill 45 regulates the marriages of women under 45 and men of any age, if either is a common drunkard, habitual criminal, epileptic, imbecile, feeble-minded, idiot or insane, or afflicted with hereditary insanity, pulmonary tuberculosis or contagious venereal disease. The affidavit of a qualified physician and some other person entirely disinterested is necessary to secure a license under the regulations." The 1913 article continues, "People under the influence of intoxicants or narcotics cannot be married and there is a heavy fine against those performing marriages when the parties to the ceremony are under such influence. The penalty for marriages in violation of the foregoing restrictions ranges from fines from fifty to five hundred dollars or imprisonment not over thirty days or both. The bill was strongly endorsed by the medical fraternity of the state and is regarded as potential in the effect of its observance will have on the future children of North Dakota."

Dakota Datebook written by Merrill Piepkorn

Sources: ND Blue Book (1997-1999)

ND Advocate Newspaper-May 2nd, 1913. A publication of the ND State Federation of Labor