Virtual marriage license applications bill heard in committee

The pandemic has made the Legislature explore areas in Minnesotans’ lives that could go virtual or electronic, in order to allow for social distancing and COVID-19 mitigation. A number of bills were passed in 2020 to allow for these virtual and electronic exceptions. While some of the exceptions were temporary and will disappear at the end of the pandemic, these bills did provide an opportunity to explore where virtual or electronic options could be made permanent.

One of these areas was in marriage license applications. Usually at least one person in a couple applying for a marriage license must apply in person. An exception was made to this rule in 2020 to allow counties to waive that requirement during peacetime emergencies. Since this exception was put into place county officials and Minnesotans have appreciated the flexibility and support making the electronic option permanent.

A bill heard this week in the Civil Law Committee would do just that, by allowing marriage applications to permanently be filed electronically. The bill allows for marriage license applications to be accepted by mail, fax, or electronic filing, if the application is signed by both individuals and they’ve been examined under oath. Examination under oath may happen over video or audio, and both individuals have to attest to the legality of the marriage.

Without the passage of the bill this exception would end on May 31, 2021. Under the current exception as well as the bill to make it permanent counties aren’t required to offer this option in the bill, so individuals should check with their counties to see if it is an option.

The bill was recommended to pass and is waiting for a final hearing on the floor.

Senate DFLers will continue to look for opportunities to make lives easier for Minnesotans as we move towards the end of the pandemic. (SF 679)