The Marriage Defense
Author: Marcia Zug, University of South Carolina
Comment: Phyllis Thompson, Harvard University
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Some people marry for love, others marry to avoid prison. This paper explores the latter. There is a long history of men and women marrying to evade criminal prosecution and, in the past, this connection was often beneficial. The marriage defense protected couples from the prying eyes of the state and helped discourage the seduction and abandonment of women. Unfortunately, by shielding the married from prosecution, the marriage defense also protected abuse. Today, prosecutions for crimes like fornication and seduction are rare yet, the marriage defense lives on in the judicial reluctance to treat non-marital and marital crimes with equal concern. Understanding the history of the marriage defense helps explain this disparity and, also, why it must end.
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