Article IV, section 1 of the US Constitution is commonly referred to as the “full faith a credit” clause. It states:
“Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records, and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.”
What this means is that documents issued by one state, in particular marriage licenses, must be honored by other states even if the marriage would otherwise not be lawful in that state. A state cannot simply refuse to recognize a marriage if it was lawfully performed elsewhere. This is important because the laws surrounding which marriages are lawful and which do not depend entirely upon the state wherein the marriage was celebrated. Prior to 2016, this most commonly applied to same-sex marriages when they were celebrated in states that allowed them, but the couple resided in states that did not. Currently, this commonly applies to marriages that were celebrated in the handful of states that allow for self-uniting marriage licenses (celebration without a recognized officiant), or marriages that would otherwise be unlawful due to prohibited consanguinity. It also applies to contract law more broadly.
In the state of Arizona, marriages between first cousins are not legal. However, this is not the case for other states, particularly the state of California. The couple were first cousins who had lawfully married in their home state before relocating to Arizona. In April of 2023, an Arizona court of appeals ruled that the couple’s marriage was invalid under Arizona state law. The appellate court went on to state that Arizona is not required to recognize such marriages when couples relocate to the state.
This case was a clear violation of the full faith and credit clause of the US Constitution, which supersedes individual state laws. Upon further appeal, the court found that the court had erred in its judgment. Couples are not required to seek approval from Arizona state courts in order to have their marriages lawfully performed in other jurisdictions recognized by the state when they relocate. Furthermore, it found that there was no strong public policy in Arizona that might otherwise preclude marriage.
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