A pop star could have a quickie Vegas wedding tomorrow, to a man she meets tonight, if she so chooses. Scott Peterson, convicted of the murder of his pregnant wife and on death row, has an inalienable right to a prison wedding with a female pen pal if the mood strikes him.
Indiana grandmother Linda Wolfe holds the Guinness World Records title for most marriages: 23. One lasted just 36 hours. She's on the lookout for No. 24, and when she finds him, no law can stop her from marrying him.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held unanimously that "the freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man."
So basic, so important, so fundamental, in constitutional parlance, that no state can interfere with even the most reckless heterosexual nuptials.
Yet in most states, my friends Wilbert and Carlos, "free men" together 16 years and lovingly raising a son, are shut out of the 1,100 federal and hundreds of state legal benefits that come with marriage. These include the right to visit a spouse in a hospital and make medical decisions; employer sick and bereavement leave; inheritance rights; the right to give unlimited gifts to a spouse without gift tax; disability, pension, and Social Security benefits; the right to bring a wrongful death case; the right to refuse to testify against a spouse; or the right to prevent the deportation of a foreign-born partner by marriage, among others.