The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

23 May 2004

More or less untouched

There are lots of reasons for getting a marriage annulled: the discovery of fraud, the failure by one partner to dissolve a previous marriage, the involvement of Britney Spears. One which comes up occasionally is failure to consummate the marriage, which at least is relatively easy to define.

Unless, of course, you're dealing with the new same-sex marriages, in which case the old definition apparently doesn't mean anything. The question is fairly obvious, I think: what specific sexual act must be performed to constitute a consummation? "How could two people," asks Mike Pechar, "get married when the nature of their relationship inherently meets the criteria for nullification?"

The issue, as I said a couple of months ago, "gets more complicated the more you look at it." I'm not saying all the issues are intractable, but there certainly are a lot of them.

Posted at 6:46 PM to Almost Yogurt


The verb form of "consummate" is defined by Merriam-Webster as: to make (marital union) complete by sexual intercourse.

Consummation does not require penile/vagainal intercourse (aka "coitus") since Webster also defines "sexual intercourse" as physical sexual contact between individuals that involves the genitalia of at least one person.

Sounds to me like oral and anal intercourse are considered "sexual intercourse."

Clearly, gay people are perfectly capable of fulfilling the definition of sexual intercourse and thereby consummating their marriages.

Regardless, I think the "fail-to-consummate" reason for voiding a marriage is only used when one party wants to consummate and the other doesn't, though I could be wrong. Can't imagine a third party demanding a marriage be voided because, say, their neighbors didn't have sex on the honeymoon.

Posted by: Nick at 2:39 AM on 24 May 2004

First of all, the law generally relies on its own definitions, not necessarily those in current dictionaries. Dictionary definitions change over a fairly short amount of time, but the law is supposed to be more constant than that -- which is why most states' legal codes contain reams and reams of defintions, often self-contradictory because one defintion applies in one title, but another title uses a completely different definition.

("This is how they keep the law constant?" you ask -- but that's a rant for another day.)

As to Nick's final paragraph, I believe he is correct -- which sort of renders the rest moot.

Posted by: McGehee at 9:08 AM on 24 May 2004

According to the Catholic Church, whether or not you can have a marriage anulled or not is determined by how much cash you throw at the Pope. It's money you've made doing the deciding, not how much whoopee you've made.

Posted by: Terkish Payne at 4:31 PM on 24 May 2004

..and I added an extra "or not" in there. Damn rephrasing gets me every time. Have to learn to just type and not edit.

Posted by: Terkish Payne at 4:32 PM on 24 May 2004

And of course, a church annulment isn't legally binding over here in the States...

Posted by: McGehee at 9:20 PM on 24 May 2004