Why should you wait five days to get married in Minnesota?

There are probabably dozens of laws in Minnesota that exist and nobody knows why. One of them is about to fall.

Minnesota is one of two states that requires you to wait once you sign an application for a marriage license. We’re not exactly sure what’s supposed to happen in the five days between the time you ask for permission to be married and the time the state says “OK.” But neither does anyone else, apparently.

Nonetheless, 15 legislators found a reason to vote against lifting the waiting period time, although they were overwhelmed today by 115 members of the House of Representatives who voted for a bill eliminating the waiting period. The legislation now moves to the Senate.

“We couldn’t find any stenographers notes as to why the legislators in 1931 thought they should have this provision on the law; it had not existed since we became a state,” Mark Chapin, Hennepin County auditor-treasurer and director of licensing, told a House committee in March.

“Our suspicion is during that time marriages went down dramatically during the Great Depression. There was a lot of concern about whether people could support their marriage vows,” Chapin said.

Chapin said many people who apply for a marriage license in Hennepin County didn’t know there was a waiting period and wanted to get married that day. Less frequently, he said, there are health issues. “Somebody might be dying and they want it more quickly than what the law currently provides.”

Currently, anyone who wants a waiver of the waiting period has to go to a judge and ask him/her to sign the waiver. “In some jurisdictions that might be somewhat easy,” Chapin said, indicating Hennepin County is an exception. “If you’re in Maple Grove and you want your license today, you need to come to the Government Center… go weapons screening, find the signing judge… get the signature, head back to Maple Grove and then the clerk can issue the license. It’s burdensome,” he said.

“It would make everything so much easier from an individual standpoint,” Felicia Glass-Wilcox, who owns the Chapel of Love at the Mall of America, told the same hearing. “We’re all adults; we should have the right to get married when we want to, not when the government says we can.”

Rep. Debra Hilstrom, who says she volunteers at a homeless shelter, said she knows a homeless couple who wanted to get married but because they don’t have a home address, they couldn’t get married.

Rep. John Lesch, a staff officer in the National Guard, says he “has plenty of privates” who get married just before being deployed. “They knew they were getting deployed and right before deployment, they either get talked into getting married by their significant other into getting married or talk thei significant other into getting married, and it’s one of the worst decisions they ever made,” he said at the March hearing.