basically nails it: A marriage license is essentially a three way contract between the two people getting married and the state. This contradict is frequently, but not always, recognized by other states.
I suspect that a lot of Americans can do a good job answering from that perspective. I'm going to take a stab at providing the Spanish perspective.
In Spain, getting a marriage license and the subsequent family book is not an easy thing. I believe for me, this process took about 5 or 6 months from when we first started gathering the paperwork to when we got the appointment with the registro civil for our wedding. This involved submitting copies of our birth certificates, of where we legally reside in Spain, that both of us were currently single, etc. We could have had to go before a judge to explain this was a love marriage, not a marriage of convenience. When non-EU foreigners are involved, opposite-sex marriage or same-sex marriage, you have to talk to the judge and be able to provide documentation of that. It probably cost us around €750 in documentation, translations and translators.
In any case, back to the contract between the two individuals and the Spanish state. Upon getting married, I was legally allowed to live in Spain. Woot woot. Our contract with the state in this regard effectively changed my official status in Spain. I'm not sure how you would otherwise create a contract between two individuals that would do this. And then you'd need the state to agree to the contract. This process of applying for the license makes this process a lot simpler and less bureaucratic.
By virtue of having this contract between myself, my wife and the state, I do not need to constantly have to prove my relationship between myself and my wife. I suppose we could have a religious marriage with its own paperwork that is not officially run by the state, but if the state recognizes these documents for the purposes of contract type relationships, you're not really doing way with the license. You're basically adding another party to it, or making another party an arbitrator of the contract, and the government would probably still be involved in determining which religious contracts it would recognize.
In Spain though, the primary benefits of marriage are often outlined as the rights between the two parties, and communal properties. Marriage is also about what happens at the end, and when it comes to separation of communal properties. Marriage rights are primarily about economic and familial rights.Question details: Who came up with that idea that government has something to do in people's private lives? Is it because back then they wanted to restrict marriages between whites and minorities? It does not make any sense because one can just write a contact instead of getting a license. Another reason might be generating revenue. What do you think?
Again, I am going to talk in a purely Spanish context about the civil marriage.
In Spain, the official recognition of marriage came in 12 July 1564, but it wasn't really civil marriage as we know it. Across the Spanish empire, only marriages performed by the Catholic Church would be recognized by the state. The government was not really involved, except to the extent of naming the Catholic Church as the arbitrator of marriage. This state effectively remained until brief period from 1870 to 1875, during the First Republic, when civil marriage was allowed. Then the old system returned. Civil Marriage returned during the Second Republic from 1931 to 1939. In both periods, divorce was allowed. In the Second Republic, divorce was actually allowed without needing a cause for the divorce.
There was a one year period between 1938 and 1939 where, because of the Guerra Civil, there were two different civil processes for getting married. Complicating this system, they did not recognize the validity of each other's marriages. And then one side won the Guerra Civil, and immediately unrecognized the actions of the other side in their areas of power during their time in power. This left situation where if a woman got pregnant and gave birth in that brief period, her child could have been deemed illegitimate because the "wrong" government gave the marriage certificate. Fun times! It got even more "fun", because when the Franco regime came to power in 1939, all the divorces granted during the Second Republic were nullified, and couples were back to being married. The regime was very close to the Catholic Church, and followed the Catholic Church's doctrine on marriage.
During parts of the monarchies and Franco era, having proof of marriage in Spain (though this was back when the only "real" state were religious) was important if you wanted to be a male and female couple and share a hotel room. You'd need either your family book or your marriage certificate. (In some places, family books can be used to prove the marriage, while in others you can only use the license.) Otherwise, unmarried opposite-sex couple could not share a room. That's the law.
So in comes the Franco era of Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975 (and the interim period of July 1976 to 1977 when Spain's first freely elected President is elected). During this period, civil marriage was theoretically an option as an alternative to Roman Catholic marriage. In practice, no one really utilized civil marriage unless they were radicals who could socially afforded to do so. Civil marriage basically branded you a communist or some other sort of other undesirable. The process was also huuuuuugely complicated. Want a church wedding? The paperwork took less than three hours. Want a civil marriage? You could fast track it and have it only take a month, but you'd be at the mercy of the time that the judge was available and willing to do it.
It should also be noted that from 1939 until 1981 divorce in Spain did not exist. There was the possibility of civil separation, but again, this was hugely complicated. It was pretty much the same as divorce for all intent and purposes, except the marriage was still on record and a person could not remarry. It was easier to get a an annulment of your Catholic marriage than it was to get your civil separation.
In 1967, following Vatican II, Spanish law changed its laws related to freedom of religion. In 1969, an attempt was made to change the laws related to civil marriage to make the process easier and have less stigma. The problem is this did not solve the bureaucracy problem and actually ended up with people putting up more roadblocks to civil marriage. For example, there is at least one account of people trying to get a civil marriage having to provide medical evidence of their "aptitud sexual.
" The 1969 laws were in response to the 1967 religious freedom law.
Starting around 1975 with the death of Franco and 1978 with the new constitution, there is a transition period. It appears that during this period, if you wanted a civil marriage, you had to prove you were not Catholic. These times were also more fun, because the Catholic Church was of the apparent position that if you got a civil marriage in Spain, you were an apostate
. The new law in 1977 was trying to change these ambiguities. In 1978, the new constitution comes into play and is deliberately open about civil marriage. In 1979, in consultation with the Holy See, Catholic marriages are basically given co-equal status with civil marriages in civil domains.
1981 comes around with la Ley 30/1981. For the first time, Spain has three types of marriages recognized by state authorities: Civil marriages, Catholic marriages and non-Catholic religious marriages. This took some time as there were battles where verdicts from the Tribunales Eclesiásticos, religious courts, were appealed to the Tribunal Constitucional in cases in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1991, 1997 and 1999.
In 1981, civil divorce became available in Spain in artículo 86 of the civil code. These divorces still required cause, and separation was required before a divorce could be granted. As I understand it, the process could take six months to a year to get a divorce. You needed to list a cause. Despite the option for divorce, the bureaucracy and stigma was still pretty high so the number of divorces was relatively low.
2005 was a big year for marriage in Spain. Two things happened. First, Divorcio Express
happens for couples that are in accord about getting a divorce. (Couples not in accord for getting a divorce have to go through some bureaucracy.) This basically allowed a married couple to go to a judge and ask for a divorce without needing a cause. This made divorce much more accessible. In 2000, there were less than 40,000 divorces that year in Spain. By 2011, following the fast track, there were 117,000 divorces. Mind boggling. The second thing happened in 2005 was that same-sex marriage became legal in Spain, through amendment to existing Spanish law and code.
In 2011, there were some changes to Spanish civil code related to marriage. The law no longer listed the married state of the mother on a child's birth certificate. Also, the law changed required the two last names a child gets. Of interest, in that same batch of changes to the law, Spain came into compliance with international law and children protection by recognizing the existence of the baby as a person from the moment of birth. Prior to this, Spain did not civilly recognize the existence of a new person until 24 hours after they were born. This tied back to medieval Spanish laws that a woman could possibly give birth to a monster who would die shortly after birth. This could and did leave people in legal limbo if say, through an accident, the child died shortly after its birth. Civilly, the child never existed. Strangely, Spanish media focused more on the ability to use the name order of parental preference then it did on when the child was born. The changes to the 2011 law also made the Libro de Familia, which was very important in Spanish life for many years since its creation in 1915, pretty much a legal anachronism with very little function in current Spanish civil law, but more like a data archive for the families.
The question details ask about marriage being a money maker for the government, with the implication that the government makes money through charging for marriage licenses. In Spain, paperwork related to documenting a marriage and the familial relation, and acquiring a marriage licence has had fees attached to it and has not had fees attached to it. During the Franco regime, the cost originally started out for the Libro de Familia at 1 peseta and there were incremental costs to this. Recently, applying for a marriage licence was free. There was a brief two month period from January 2015 to February 28, 2015 where there was a fee attached to this process. It was so unpopular that the government did away with it. In any case, I cannot see any potential argument that Spain makes money through the issuing of marriage licenses.
There are larger economic issues at play, and I cannot find any economic study on the economic costs in Spain for not having civil marriage recognition (bearing in mind Spain recognizes 3 forms of it) versus having civil marriage. There are likely EU associated political and economic costs should they chose to try to do away with the institution, and given Spain's embracing of same-sex marriage and the religious marriages with civil recognition, I cannot see any reason why Spain would bother to reconsider their stance on having this institution.Spain's initial system of recognizing of marriages was not about race, but was about standardizing how the Spanish empire worked. Religious marriages provided that framework, and helped solidify Spain's Catholic identity when they were busy being Catholic empire builders. Attempts at changing civil marriage code were not in response to trying to be more exclusive but more about being more inclusive as to who could get married and giving people more rights. Hopefully, that trend continues in Spain.Casarse por "lo civil" en España
gives a decent overview of marriage in Spain until 1977 in non-religious, non-academic and non-legal Spanish. Page on notin.es
is a legal Spanish history.See question on Quora