If so, Answer These Questions.
(Abstraction from the Atlantic City Press, 1985)
Are you an imbecile? Under the influence of liquor or a narcotic drug? Of unsound mind?
Have you applied for a marriage license recently?
If you have, the above questions may look awfully familiar. They’re among the queries that some people would like deleted from the marriage license application because they feel they are archaic, unnecessary and just plain nosy.
Or, in the words of Selma Troy, registrar of vital statistics in Atlantic City, “superfluous and silly.”
“Who’s going to mark that they’re an imbecile?” she asked. “Who’s going to answer truthfully that they’re on drugs or alcohol?”
So far, nobody has really objected to the questions, she said. “They usually laugh and say, ‘Maybe I am an imbecile – I’m getting married, aren’t I?’”
Troy has also noticed another problem. “Every time they go to check where it says, ‘Are you of unsound mind?’ they usually put ‘yes.’ They misunderstand; they think it says ‘of sound mind.’ Then we have to point out the mistake and they have to cross it out…”
After five years as registrar (and 12 years prior to that spent working in the registrar’s office), Selma Troy decided last year that it was about time somebody updated the application forms.
It seemed a simple enough request. But when she contacted her superiors in Trenton, they said they knew the forms were outdated, but the applications were worded according to the letter of the law, and the only way the law could be changed was by the Legislature.
So Troy decided to give it a try. She wrote to her senator and assemblymen and to the state Public Advocate’s office. Sen. Steven Perskie was sufficiently convinced to introduce a bill, S-1569, which amends the act concerning marriage licenses.
The original law – a model of legal obfuscation – reads as follows: “No marriage license shall be issued when either of the contracting parties, at the time of making an application therefor, is infected with gonorrhea, syphilis, or chancroid in a communicable stage, is under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a narcotic drug, or is an imbecile or of an unsound mind. Nor shall any such license be issued to a person who is or has been an inmate of an insane asylum or institution for indigent persons, unless it appears that such person has been satisfactorily discharged therefrom.”
Perksie’s bill would simplify the law to state very simply that “no marriage license shall be issued when either applicant is infected with a venereal disease in a communicable stage or is currently adjudicated incompetent.”
The bill passed.
— Selma Troy