Law professors tend to specialize. As a result, there are lots of legal things I don’t know much about, and I try not to write about them. And there are lots of legal things I think I know something about, but I usually feel I don’t know them well enough to opine publicly. And on those few subjects I think I know best, I tend to want to write fairly long and detailed articles, not blog posts. As a consequence, I don’t tend to post legal (as opposed to political) commentary on this blog. The major exception so far has been the torture issue, which so offended me that I studied up on it to the point where I felt able to write about it, even though I don’t currently have plans to publish on it in law journals.
But here’s an exception to my rule, this time on a subject I know I don’t know well: family law (and its criminal law counterpart). It’s just that I’m curious about it.
The New York Times ran a story yesterday about a statutory rape charge being filed in Nebraska against one Matthew Koso, who is part of a couple (he: age 22, she: age 14) legally married in Kansas. The article doesn’t mention the constitutional implications at all, nor it seems does much of the blog commentary, and I’d like to know why. (Just keep in mind as you read this that I’m prepared to be told that any of the following assertions is wrong.)
I would have thought that it was settled that under the privacy jurisprudence in the Griswold line of cases (striking down a state rule banning sales of contraceptives to married persons) no state could criminalize sex between consenting married adults, even due to their ages. I presume therefore that Nebraska law doesn’t recognize the validity of the Kansas marriage, but I would have thought that this failure to recognize would violate the full faith and credit clause of the constitution:
“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.”
In the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” Congress purported to exercise its authority under the Full Faith and Credit Clause…to allow states to deny any credit to out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples. But–even assuming that this statute conforms to the Full Faith and Credit Clause (I’m dubious)–it’s clear that the DOMA doesn’t apply here. So what is Nebraska’s authority for denying the validity of the Kansas marriage? Is it ‘public policy’? Can that suffice to void a constitutionally protected relationship? Or is it some idea that minors don’t have the same constitutional right to marry as adults, and this trumps the adult’s right not to be prosecuted for marital sex?
I’m presume there’s some good reason why the couple’s defenders, including their lawyer, are not making these constitutional arguments. Alternately, they might be making them but it’s not getting reported. Or, perhaps the prosecution iis to be based on a res ipsa loquitor claim regarding pre-marital sex?
Like I said, family law is not my field, and the facts are not utterly clear here, but I bet someone reading this either knows the answer or knows where it can be found.