The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society in economics and politics, in law and policy directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. (USCCB, Themes of Catholic Social Teaching).
Marriage is an integral part of the central social institution of society – family.
Earlier this year, CLINIC discovered that men and women in Minnesota were being refused the right to marry because of their immigration status. Although not required under federal law, the state of Minnesota’s marriage license application required a Social Security number. This meant that an undocumented immigrant couple, unable to provide Social Security numbers, would be denied a marriage license. Priests who wanted to perform the sacrament of marriage for the couple were conflicted – they would be breaking the law by marrying a couple without a marriage license. Yet, how could they deny them the sacrament so integral to our society?
CLINIC staff recognized this problem and began working on getting the Minnesota legislature to amend its law so that undocumented immigrants could be married and priests could perform the marriage ceremony in good conscience. Due in part to CLINIC’s efforts, Minnesota amended its marriage law: as of August 1, 2009, marriage license applicants who have not been issued a Social Security number may certify that fact on a supplement to the license application. Immigrants may now take part in the sacrament of marriage, regardless of their immigration status, and priests need not worry about the lawfulness of performing the sacrament.