Online proxy marriages raise concern

by Alicia Chavez

Online dating has not only transformed the concept of courtship, it has revolutionized the practice of marriage. Couples are now Skyping their “I do’s.”

These proxy online marriages— ceremonies allowing either party of the marriage to not be physically present—are now raising legal concerns.

According to The New York Times, proxy marriages date back centuries. Even Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are a prime example of the practice: The couple was first married in Antoinette’s native country of Austria, where Louis XVI was absent.

Those concerned with the idea of proxy marriages fear the practice enables marriage fraud and even increases the number of sex trafficking victims.

The Times reported immigration authorities still consider the practice to be new and most are unaware such ceremonies are taking place.

However, anyone applying for U.S. citizenship must be interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security or state department officials, which investigate marriage fraud. An immediate red flag is raised to officials if the couple defends their marriage by proving they wed via the Internet.

Proxy marriages are occurring worldwide to avoid restricting laws in other countries that denounce the idea of interfaith marriages. In contrast, Islamic countries have become more open to ideas where the Koran has demonstrated support proxy marriages.

However, proxy marriages are only recognized in the states of Colorado, Montana, Alabama, Texas, Missouri and California. In all other states, the practice is illegal, unless one partner is in the military.

According to The Times article, in 2010, the House of Representatives passed a bill recognizing proxy marriages for those enlisted in the military. The majority of proxy marriages are those where military couples are separated, and wish to tie the knot before being deployed to ensure spouses receive military benefits.

Operations manager for Proxy Marriage Now, George Andrews, reported that in the past seven years facilitating proxy marriages, business has increased by 12 percent to 15 percent annually, according to The Times. That increase amounts to 400 to 500 marriage ceremonies per year.

Andrews has even coined the term, double-proxy, where both parties are physically absent during their ceremony.

“Before the Web was functional these sorts of relationships were simply not feasible,” Andrews reported to MSN News. “It’s made international marriage something that is a much bigger deal than it ever was before.”