Marriage and the Multiverse

Today’s question comes from Marcus, who pointed me to this question from James Nicoll: “Under current US law, can djinn marry humans?”  This was apparently inspired by the show I Dream of Jeannie, in which a human marries a genie.  The broader issue of inter-species marriage comes up frequently in comics, however.  For example, Clark Kent, a non-human Kryptonian, has married Lois Lane, a human.  In both cases the true nature of the participants was not public, so the issue didn’t come up directly.  But if Clark Kent had been ‘out’ as Superman or if Jeannie had been ‘out’ as a genie, would the marriage have been legally recognized?

Alas, probably not.  First, we can consider states that have laws prohibiting same-sex marriage, as they have narrowly defined marriage laws.  But even states that allow same-sex marriage do not go so far as to recognize Kryptonian/human or genie/human marriage.

Many US states prohibit same-sex marriage, either by statute or constitutional provision.  The exact language varies, but typically some variation of “one man and one woman” is used.  Precise definitions of “man” and “woman” are typically not found in state statutes, but the plain meaning of the terms is a male human and a female human, respectively.  This can be seen by reference to animal cruelty laws, which delineate humans as separate from other kinds of animals.  See, e.g., Code S.C. § 47-1-10(1) (“‘Animal’ means a living vertebrate creature except a homo sapien.”); R.S.Mo. 578.405(2)(1) (“‘Animal’ [means] every living creature, domestic or wild, but not including Homo sapiens”).

At the federal level, 1 U.S.C. § 8 defines “person” to include “every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.”  This is an inclusive rather than exclusive definition (and it’s not specifically about marriage), but it underscores the point that only humans are people.  The federal Defense of Marriage Act provides (for now) that “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”  Combined with 1 U.S.C. § 8 and the plain meaning of the words, federal law also appears to only contemplate marriage between humans.

While Congress may have the power to grant legal personhood to non-human animals (see Cetacean Community v. Bush, 386 F.3d 1169 (9th Cir. 2004)), it has not done so yet.  If non-human animals do not have standing to bring suit in court, then marriage would seem to be right out.

And non-humans could be granted legal personhood without necessarily granting them the right to marry humans.  If cetaceans or primates are ever granted personhood, for example, it is incredibly unlikely that a human could marry a dolphin or a chimpanzee.  Thus, the fact that an ‘out’ Clark Kent was allowed to become president does not necessarily mean he could legally marry Lois Lane.  The Constitution merely requires that the president be “a natural born citizen,” but there are many citizens that are prohibited from marrying who could nonetheless theoretically be elected president (e.g. someone who was mentally incapable of consenting to marriage).  It’s about as unlikely as an alien being elected president, but it’s legally possible.

A growing number of states recognize same-sex marriage, but their laws are still framed in terms of humans.  For example, Vermont’s law defines marriage as “the legally recognized union of two people.” 15 V.S.A. § 8.  Vermont further defines “person” as “any natural person” plus various kinds of legal entities such as corporations. 1 V.S.A. § 128.  So once again we can fall back on the fact that non-human animals are not (presently) persons.  See, e.g., Cetacean Community, 386 F.3d at 1175-79.

So what does this mean for Jeannie and Tony, Lois and Clark, and other cross-species couples?  For starters, their marriages are likely void, and there may also be criminal liability (e.g. fraud).  It is possible that the courts could come to the rescue here and recognize genies, Kryptonians, Tamaraneans, etc, as legal persons who have the right (perhaps under Equal Protection) to marry humans.  But given the slow progress of marriage equality between humans (Loving v. Virginia was decided in 1967; same-sex marriage is still widely prohibited), this seems like a bit of a stretch.

59 Responses to Marriage and the Multiverse

  1. Is it really true that a Florida judge dismissed a charge of “allowing an unlicensed person to operate a motor vehicle” against someone who let his pet chimpanzee take the wheel?

    • I’m not sure. This TIME magazine article suggests the citation was reckless driving and was made against the chimpanzee’s owner, who was in the passenger seat.

    • Clark Kent was legally adopted by the Kents. The laws regarding adoption are such that an adopted child is considered, for all legal purposes, exactly the same as a child born to that couple. They have exactly the same rights and privileges. A new birth certificate is even issued. So, in that case Clark Kent is legally a human, even if he wasn’t born a human. He legally became a human by way of his adoption by a human family. Now, that assumes that the adoption itself was legal, which it might not be.

      If Clark Kent is not considered a man because he’s not human, would human laws apply to him? Or would he be above the law and able to do whatever he wanted?

      How about another alien: Megamind. Could he marry Roxanne Ritchi? (For those who aren’t familiar, think of a blue alien Lex Luthor who kills Superman turns his life around, becomes the hero, and wins Lois Lane.) Megamind was never adopted but was considered human enough to be subject to human laws and incarcerated for violating them. Can an alien be man enough to be convicted and sent to prison but not man enough to marry?

      • Would that also mean that Clark Kent would be subject to the laws intended to protect humans from non-humans? Would he get an “every dog gets one bite” exemption, after which his “owners”, presumably his parents, would have to face the consequences of his actions? Or would he count as an inherently dangerous creature, like those people who insist on having pet tigers (or recently in Maryland, pit bulls have been so described – it’s being appealled), and he wouldn’t get the one time before the Kents start being held liable for his actions?

  2. Don’t buy it. If they’re not persons or men or women for the purposes of marriage, they’re not those things for ANY purpose and can’t own property, vote, run for office, have civil rights requiring a jury trial, or anything… and that’s clearly not the status of these characters in their respective fictions.

    • I addressed that in the bit about Superman becoming president. Even if a Kryptonian, genie, or whatever is declared to be a legal person, that does not necessarily mean that they may marry a human. Being a legal person does not automatically entitle someone to marry (e.g. age of consent and competency requirements). Even competent, consenting adults may be prohibited from marrying one another (e.g. same-sex marriage, incest, and bigamy prohibitions).

      Thus, even if a Kryptonian such as Superman were a legal person, he might still be prohibited from marrying a human in a state that defined marriage as between one man and one woman, since the plain meaning of the statute is that marriage is between one male human and one female human. And even states that recognize same-sex marriage use language that probably doesn’t extend to non-humans, even if they are legal persons. For example, while “people” is the ordinary plural of “person,” the use of “two people” in the Vermont statute may be interpreted to mean “two human beings” rather than “two legal persons.”

      • Scott Harris

        In the plain meaning of the word, SuperMAN is certainly a man, and would not run afoul of laws restricting marriage rights so long as he was marrying a woman. The assertion that the plain meaning of ‘person’, ‘man’, or ‘woman’ is restricted to members of the species Homo sapiens rests upon the definition in that law extending rights as persons to neonates, which as you note is inclusive rather than exclusive, and that then being tied in with the definitions of men and women in the marriage restriction laws that only certain states even have and that at the federal level (DOMA) has been ineffective at preventing same-sex marriages in the states that don’t. It’s tenuous at best.

      • I don’t see how the name “Superman” makes him a man. If I call my cat “Wonderman” that doesn’t make him a man.

        To turn things around: you’re claiming that if an intelligent non-human arrived on Earth tomorrow and tried to marry a human, they wouldn’t have any trouble getting a marriage license? That is a pretty extraordinary claim.

        As a side note, DOMA was never intended to prevent states from recognizing same-sex marriages if they wanted to. It has two parts: it bars federal recognition of those marriages, and it provides that states are not required to recognize them.

      • While I assume this probably wouldn’t be a valid legal litmus test, but if I showed someone a picture of your cat and asked them if this was a man, they would certainly say no. If I showed them a picture of Superman/Clark Kent/Kal El, I’d imagine the vast, vast majority would say yes. The truly suspicious (or opportunistic) might ask to see him naked first, but assuming everything is as expected there, I can’t imagine many who wouldn’t, on the face of it, call him a man. Things get stickier the less and less human-like of an alien, but.

    • In most of those fictions the characters are masquerading as humans.

      Also, is there a legal definition of homo sapien? Both djinn from I Dream of Jeannie and withches from Bewitched essentially claim to be from a seperate species but that my simply be the cultural arrogance of what appear to be insullar societies. They look like modern humans, apear to come from Earth and can successfully interbreed with “regular” humans. There’s no proof that the children are fertile but none that they aren’t either.

      Also, does the bit about Vermont mean that I can legally marry a corporation?

      • I don’t know that any statutes or cases get more specific that “human” or “homo sapiens.”

        No, and the more I think about it the more I think “people” isn’t mean to be the plural of “person” but rather to refer generally to humans (i.e. the common, dictionary definition of people rather than being a plural of the defined term “person”).

      • Homo sapiens has a scientific definition. I suppose it’s theoretically possible that djinn could be heavily mutated homo sapiens who have somehow beaten all the odds to acquire beneficial wish-granting power mutations or they might be another cousin of ours, the same as Homo rhodesiensis or it’s possible that they are a completely different species that just so happens to look exactly the same as Homo sapiens*. So a mutated Homo sapiens might be off the hook, but I have no idea how the law would treat the cousin species Homo djinn and we have some idea how the (current) law would treat the completely separate species Djinn.

        *Compared to the odds of developing a beneficial mutation that allows your species to violate the conservation of matter and energy things like just so happening to look exactly like a human are downright plausible.

      • James Pollock

        Djinn DO NOT look just like humans, at least, not according to “I Dream of Jeannie”. The djinn lack umbilicus.

      • Regarding marrying a corporation, I’ve gotta ask…. Has anyone tried?

      • Todd Robertson

        Gyre, homo sapiens does not have a scientific definition. At least not one of which I’m aware. It’s a biological classification. For it to be a scientific it would have to be testable which would require a definition to test against. We’ve never needed to define it further because there is no similar organism with similar enough capabilities for us to need to distinguish one from the other.
        The traditional biological definition of a species is that two organisms who can breed and produce fertile offspring are considered part of the same species, but even that’s iffy. In the case of ring species members of adjacent populations interbreed successfully but members of some non-adjacent populations do not.
        So it seems that any law based on the use of Homo Sapiens as a criteria would be problematic.

  3. I figure that Clark Kent has an easier time getting married than The Vision. At least Clark is a biological creature rather than a machine. I can see the protests now: God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and GE!

  4. Christopher L. Bennett

    Point of order: According to Wikipedia’s page on I Dream of Jeannie, “In the first season, it is made clear that Jeannie was originally a human who was turned into a genie by (as later revealed) the Blue Djinn when she refused to marry him.” This was retconned by season 3, with her entire family and her mother being genies as well, but if we go by the original conception (and the retcon could’ve been the result of a magic spell between seasons, for all we know), then Jeannie was born as a member of Homo sapiens and thus would legally qualify as a person.

    I should also point out that the species H. sapiens can include subspecies, such as the extinct H. sapiens idaltu; Neandertals are sometimes classified as a subspecies of H. sapiens as well. Perhaps genies — or witches in the Bewitched universe — are such a subspecies. They’re certainly anatomically identical to modern humans, and Samantha and Darrin were clearly interfertile, so it’s reasonable to conclude they’re a subspecies and would thus count as persons under the letter, if not the spirit, of the federal statute discussed above.

    As for Kal-El, he’s routinely known as Superman, the Man of Steel, and the Man of Tomorrow. I suppose those are all informal usages, but I wonder if any case could be made that since he’s universally accepted to be a “man” even though he’s known to be nonhuman, maybe he could marry a human under laws specifying “one man and one woman.” It’s a stretch, but then, those laws are silly and discriminatory anyway.

    The most interesting point in this post is the throwaway one that you don’t have to be mentally competent to be elected president. Somehow that’s not really a shocker. The past year has made it clear that you certainly don’t need to be mentally competent to run for president.

    • It’s a side-effect of the constitutionally defined requirements for the presidency. Neither Congress nor the courts can put additional requirements on the office, and the Constitution doesn’t mention anything about mental competence. Now, taking the oath of office is a requirement, but people who are incompetent to, say, enter into a contract can nonetheless take an oath. For example, children, people taking narcotic medication, and people with mental disabilities or mental illnesses can testify as witnesses, which requires taking an oath.

      • If he can’t sign contracts would he be able to sign bills into law or treaties with other nations?

      • That’s a question that hasn’t come up as far as I know. There have been some cases in which a president’s mental status has been questioned after the fact. For example, Reagan may have already been suffering from Alzheimer’s in his second term, and Woodrow Wilson had a stroke while in office that left him basically incapacitated. But as far as I know in no case has the validity of a bill or treaty been seriously questioned on the basis of the mental state of the president at the time it was signed. In any case, I’m not sure it would matter in the case of a bill. Normally if the President takes no action then a bill becomes law by default. If the President takes no action for 10 days and Congress is not in session then the bill is vetoed by a “pocket veto,” but that has been avoided for decades by a technical maneuver by Congress.

        Treaties are different, however, but then there is the question of standing. Who could sue to strike down such a treaty? A member of the Senate who voted against it? Would the courts even consider such a suit a proper exercise of the judicial power or would they say that the 25th Amendment provides the sole mechanism for handling presidential disability? I’m not sure.

        Note that the 25th Amendment only applies after someone has become president. It does not add any new requirements to becoming president in the first place. So a person completely physically and mentally unfit for the job (but still technically eligible) could conceivably be elected, take the oath of office, and then promptly be removed following the procedure in the 25th Amendment.

  5. mainly linking to the comments here but just had a wierd thought. If the statutes were loosened to allow non human entities to marry could that lead to corporations marrying? Would this be a new form of merger/acquisition?

    probably nonsense but just giggling about how the divorce would go.

  6. For many of the Super Heroes of non Terran origin that want to get married, they shouldn’t have a problem being considered animals as they are interbreeding with members of Homo Sapiens, and thus, are Homo Sapiens (see the Culture books for example). Most of the wackiness with defining species comes into play when dealing with non sexual reproduction,.

    • I suspect a court would interpret “human being” or “homo sapiens” to mean “homo sapiens as understood at the time of the law’s enactment.” The fact that Kryptonians can produce offspring with humans (and it’s not clear that they are fertile, which is typically a part of the definition of species) would be an argument for broadening the definition of homo sapiens, but it wouldn’t necessarily mean including Kryptonians under the law as it was understood at the time it was enacted.

      • So, is this a case when the alien and his/her human mate actually have to have a child out of wedlock before they’re allowed to marry? I guess they could be hand-fasted first…

  7. In the fifth Swamp Thing book by Alan Moore Swamp Things girlfriend Abby is arrested by local Louisiana authorities for breaking laws against bestiality because they say she has had sex with Swamp Thing. Can you do that? I think batman says something later about how if you did that to Abby you would have to do it to anyone superman was with and some other super heroes and that and threats from Swamp Thing got them to drop the charges. Is sex with the Swamp Thing something they can arrest you for breaking bestiality laws over.

    • In Louisiana “crimes against nature” includes bestiality, which is defined as a person having sex with an animal. LSA-R.S. 14:89. The Alan Moore Swamp Thing is, as I understand it, a plant that absorbed the memories of Alec Holland rather than a hybrid plant/human creature as in some other versions. So Abby might have been able to avoid conviction.

      Interestingly, however, Louisiana also criminalizes the creation of human-animal hybrids. LSA-R.S. 14:89.6. That includes “A hybrid human-animal embryo produced by fertilizing a human egg with a nonhuman sperm.” If Kryptonians are not humans, then Lois Lane and Superman’s child would be illegal in Louisiana. I wonder how common such laws are?

  8. How about criminal liability for bestiality (I guess the Scarlet Witch gets a pass on this one)?

    Alternatively, what is the legal effect if the nonhumanity is not discovered by the state until well after the marriage has been sanctioned? I mean, Clark Kent has a lifetime of fraudulent interactions with the government, since he’s been representing himself as a U.S. citizen for nearly all of his life, but what about aliens (or other genetic constructs) who don’t know they’re aliens (or other genetic constructs) when they get married? For example, the clone of Jean Grey (I can’t seem to pull her name out of my memory at the moment) that married Cyclops?

    And a related topic… are the half-breed children “humans” (persons) by virtue of having one human parent, or “non-human” because they don’t have two?

  9. Could two corporations marry in Vermont?

  10. “But given the slow progress of marriage equality between humans (Loving v. Virginia was decided in 1967; same-sex marriage is still widely prohibited), this seems like a bit of a stretch.”

    Then again, no one in any of those cases had to tell Superman that he wasn’t “man enough” to marry. ;-)

    • Larry Niven published some analysis that suggested that the chaste living Superman chose was chosen less because of the morality of the times and more out of fear of crippling or even killing the (non-Kryptonian) object of his desire. Perhaps this is the real reason he kept the bottled city of Kandor in the Fortress.

      • If we’re going to go by that then Superman should be avoiding ever touching anything, he should go somewhere he doesn’t have to hear all the horrible sounds a human makes in everyday life and either his sense of speed makes him incapable of relating to humans or every time he runs at full speed he’s putting thousands of people in danger.

        That’s not a ‘Superman and Lois belong together!’ rant, but if we use his point about Superman’s strength then we really should go all the way into thinking about the consequences instead of stopping at that.

      • James Pollock

        Niven’s article DOES go way beyond the tiny bit I referenced here, however, I’ll switch gears and note that this was a concern in the movies, too. After Superman uses the Kryptonian machine to depower himself in Superman II, Supes and Lois finally get that night together. Sure, Zod and his pals come along later and ruin it, but at least HE’ll remember it. (Try not to think too much about the “Clark uses his superpowers to make Lois forget that she and he have been, um, together”, or it starts to feel a little bit creepy.)

      • Christopher L. Bennett

        In response to Gyre’s comment re: Niven’s article — the key point of Niven’s argument is that sexual release involves involuntary muscle contractions, so it’s not necessarily something Superman could control the way he does with everyday touching and handling of things. The essay can be read here (reprinted with Niven’s permission):

        http://www.rawbw.com/~svw/superman.html

  11. Pingback: Would human-alien or human-supernatural marriages be recognized under US law? [Law] | Public House Services

  12. If Lex Luthor killed Superman could he be charged with murder ? Since Kal El is not a legal human ?

  13. If I recall correctly, the Alien Nation TV series had, as part of its backstory, a Supreme Court decision granting the stranded Tenctonese human rights to some handwaved degree, allowing them to start their assimilation into human society. I’m not sure whether or not interspecies marriage was part of that decision–I imagine if the series had gone on, that question would have been addressed as several other societal issues were.

    • There were some cross-species relationships in Alien Nation.
      (My question with that show was why a species that dies a slow, horrid, painful death upon immersion in salt water was settled in Los Angeles instead of, say, Denver or Kansas City. Or Groom Lake, Nevada.)

  14. While it might be tough for a space alien to non-fraudulently obtain a marriage license for a statutory marriage, how about the common-law route?

    And another side discussion… what about aliens who REPLACE humans? Does that affect various legal relationships?

    • Or another route… how would the states handle a hypothetical Kryptonian marriage ceremony, performed in Kandor, between Clark and Lois? How about the Shi-Ar marriage between Charles Xavier and Lilandra? Is Dick Grayson going to get in trouble with the authorities in New York for getting with Princess Koriand’r, who was in an arranged state marriage on Tamaran?
      (My understanding is that whereas a state MUST honor the acts of other states, they (and hte federal government) may choose to disregard marriages entered into under the laws of other nations.

  15. I don’t get this example:

    And non-humans could be granted legal personhood without necessarily granting them the right to marry humans.

    A growing number of states recognize same-sex marriage, but their laws are still framed in terms of humans. For example, Vermont’s law defines marriage as “the legally recognized union of two people.”

    I don’t see how that counts as a law framed in terms of humans at all. It’s framed in terms of people. And combined with the previous quote, I would think that if non-humans get legal personhood, and if the law specifically says “people” and not “humans”, they would be permitted to marry.

    And many jurisdictions allow courts to ignore a law when it produces an absurd result that could not possibly have been intended. Making it illegal for Superman to marry, when the law was written without anyone knowing aliens exist and the reference to humans was an accident of history, may count as an absurd result.

    Also, comic book aliens are almost always shown as being interfertile with humans unless they’re some kind of nonorganic life form. This has been shown for Superman too. at least pre-Crisis; we have Van-Zee’s children, and we have the 30th century descendant Laurel Kent. (Who being a descendant incidentally also answers the question about fertile offspring.) Biologically, most comic book aliens would be the same species as humans, by definition.

    As for Niven’s essay: Superman’s every blink doesn’t slam his eyelids together at 5000 miles per hour, and his every breath isn’t super-breath, nor do you hear Superman’s heartbeat or intestines at a hundreds of decibels level. So there’s no reason to believe the same for other involuntary reactions.

    • The point is that being a legal person (or even a human) does not make one eligible to marry at all, much less to marry whomever one wishes. The states still have fairly broad powers to regulate who can marry, and even the states with the broadest marriage laws still seem to exclude non-human aliens.

      And many jurisdictions allow courts to ignore a law when it produces an absurd result that could not possibly have been intended.

      That’s true, but I think that the legislatures likely very much intended the laws to exclude non-human animals, even intelligent ones such as Superman. Or do you want to argue that, if we could go back and ask state legislatures back in the 1800s whether intelligent non-human aliens should be allowed to marry a human, they would vote yes? I don’t think they were that open minded. And for the ‘absurd result’ argument to work, it would have to be so patently obvious that the result was unintended that a court would feel comfortable substituting its judgment for the legislature’s. That’s a very rare thing.

      • James Pollock

        Isn’t “absurd results” normally used to resolve things like punctuation and drafting errors?

      • Ken Arromdee

        No. The legislature did not intend the laws to include “non-human animals… like Superman”. If you could somehow go back in time, show Superman to them, and say that he is a non-human animal by definition and therefore cannot marry a human, their reaction would be “that’s crazy. He’s obviously a human in any way that matters and he ought to be able to marry.” Even if he fits the definition of “non-human animal”, they would just say “we didn’t mean the dictionary definition of animal” and still think he ought to be able to marry. (And he clearly doesn’t fit the common definition of “animal”; if you ask a guy off the street if Superman is an animal, he’d say “no”.)

        There is no way that a past legislature would, if they had known about Superman, have wanted to place him in the same category as (other) non-human animals that are not sentient and do not resemble humans. It would be absurd. The only reason the law affects Superman at all is that they hadn’t heard of them, so they drafted the law in a way which didn’t take his situation into account.

        And yes, I do believe that if the legislature was presented with non-human aliens who looked, sounded, and acted just like humans of their own race, such that you wouldn’t even know they were aliens unless they flew or something, they would have wanted them to be allowed to marry humans. Indeed, they probably would say that they are humans, and if put on notice that the laws don’t define them as such, they would have considered this a hole in the laws.

        I find it more plausible if the aliens were nonhuman-looking, but, Superman does look like us.

      • Ken Arromdee

        James P: There was a case where a 12 year old and a 13 year old had sex and “absurd results” was used when they were both charged with sexual abuse of a minor.

      • Ken, I will paraphrase Carl Sagan. “Spock is the son of a Vulcan man and a human woman. That makes about as much sense as someone being the offspring of a man and a daisy.” We are using real world laws and in the real world aliens do not exist and if they did they couldn’t interbreed with humans and the idea of humans and aliens marrying would be absurd.

        A more realistic question would be if an alien could assume human form, say by transferring his memories into an avatar. In this case the avatar would be human and would qualify as a person. Maybe one day they will do a version of Superman in which Clark learns that his parents didn’t even look human and that his body was created to look human so he could blend in with humans and not be rejected by them. That would be an interesting addition to the Superman mythos. In the future there may be a lot more people born through in vitro fertilization and this could be a version of Superman a lot of people could relate to, just as people who are adopted relate to Superman today.

      • Ken Arromdee

        Martin: we’re using real world laws, but we’re discussing how comic book events would relate to them. In the comic books, Superman looks and acts completely like a human and is completely interfertile with humans, and the same is true for most space aliens. It may not be realistic, but neither is a man flying, and we can discuss what the courts would think of a man flying. I believe that faced with Superman as he is actually depicted in comics (however unrealistic that is), it would be obvious enough that the laws were never intended to exclude Superman, that the absurd results idea would apply.

      • If you could somehow go back in time, show Superman to them, and say that he is a non-human animal by definition and therefore cannot marry a human, their reaction would be “that’s crazy. He’s obviously a human in any way that matters and he ought to be able to marry.”

        The problem with this logic is that legislatures at that time were perfectly content outlawing marriage between humans of different races. Why would you think they would be okay with marriage between a human and a non-human alien? Can you give some legal or historical evidence for the open-mindedness of 19th century state legislatures? Because all of the cases and history I’m familiar with suggest that they were quite happy to discriminate between different types of humans and had essentially no regard for non-human animals (animal cruelty laws mostly being a 20th century invention). Even well into the 20th century several states outlawed interracial marriage and likely would have kept on doing so for a few decades more had the Supreme Court not intervened in 1967.

        And although the 14th Amendment and Loving v. Virginia prohibit anti-miscegenation laws, the 14th Amendment was primarily aimed at preventing discrimination on the basis of race. It is not at all clear that it necessarily extends to allowing humans and non-human aliens to marry. After all, it doesn’t even necessarily extend to human couples of the same sex.

      • Ken Arromdee

        The problem with this logic is that legislatures at that time were perfectly content outlawing marriage between humans of different races. Why would you think they would be okay with marriage between a human and a non-human alien? Can you give some legal or historical evidence for the open-mindedness of 19th century state legislatures?

        I did specify that he has to look like someone of the legislators’ own race.

        Obviously I can’t give examples of 19th century legislatures letting space aliens marry, since they hadn’t heard of space aliens. However, I believe that they would decide who counts as one of their own kind based on appearance, behavior, and social status. Superman looks and acts like one of them and certainly isn’t a member of an underclass, so they would consider Superman to be one of their own kind who happens to have come from a very faraway country. Certainly if there were a thousand other space aliens who all worked as janitors and sharecroppers, their decision might be different, but that’s not Superman, and it’s not the general depiction of comic book space aliens. It’s not that they’re open-minded–it’s the reverse: they have shallow criteria for who counts as being like themselves, but Superman very obviously fits even criteria as shallow as those.

        There is also a large practical component to pseudoscientific racial classifications. If there were so few people of a particular race that treating them poorly wouldn’t help anyone get cheap household servants, but it *would* piss off the guy who prevents the death of a few million people each month, they would classify him as a human even if he was green. Pseudoscience isn’t real science, after all; they’re making it up to support their conclusion.

        Besides, given the unrealistic premise–which we have to accept–that Superman is completely interfertile with humans, I don’t think he counts as a separate species from humans anyway.

  16. There is one requirement (other than having been born in the U.S.) for anyone to be President and that is that they be a U.S. citizen. Now a person born in the U.S. is a U.S. citizen but what about an alien? After all, a frog isn’t a U.S. citizen even if it is born in the U.S. I think to be a citizen of the U.S. you have to be a person. Now, Superman recently threatened to rescind his U.S. citizenship so, presumably, Superman is considered a U.S. citizen. Now to me, that means that Superman is considered a person and can marry Lois.

    Anywa, I know I harp on this issue, but I would think that clones would have a hard time in many ways. If you are a new born clone then even though (in most movies and comics) you are already an adult you are actually a new born. I don’t think Scott’s marriage to Madelyne Prior was legal because she wasn’t 16 years old. In fact, Scott could be charged with having sex with an underaged person, the evidence being their son Nathan (who was conveniently sent to the future).

  17. Didn’t this blog do a whole series about sentient beings, competency, civil rights, and whatnot? Seems this would be a classic place to apply the product of that series.

    • There’s a difference between civil rights and competency for a sapient creature. People that are homosexual are most assuredly people under the law, they’re competent, have civil rights and a whole host of other things. But, there are states where they can’t get married. That’s the key difference being discussed.

      Detective Chimp might be a legal person but I don’t think anybody would go letting him getting married in the US, at least not to a human.

      This is all before we even get to Monsieur Mallah and The Brain.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detective_Chimp
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsieur_Mallah

  18. On the subject of Superman…strictly speaking, we do not know that he is a man. Or a male, or that he is interfertile with humans.

    Kryptonians (more accuratly, Daxamites, Kryptonians are a subspecies) superficially appear human and possess secondary male and female sexual characteristics. This is pretty remarkable in an alien species. And the more they resemble us, the more remarkable it gets. We do not actually know what Kryptonians look like with their clothes off. But the odd favor the incidental resemblance to humans not going very far.

    As for interfertility, while hybrid offspring have been seen, we have no information on whether they were concived by a sexual union or considerable levels of biological engineering.

    • We do not actually know what Kryptonians look like with their clothes off. But the odd favor the incidental resemblance to humans not going very far.

      The odds also favor there not being any incidental resemblance at all. And never mind sexual anatomy, you ought to be worried about facial expressions. The human brain devotes a massive amount of processing to facial expressions, , to the point where tiny deviations cause the “uncanny valley”, and given how much detail our brains notice on the face, it’s totally implausible that an alien would have a face and facial expressions so close to ours that he wouldn’t come across as creepy.

      Comic book space aliens, as actually depicted, look like humans, have the same anatomy as humans, and interbreed with humans. Unlikely as it is, that’s what it’s like in the comics. You can always make up something about “well, they may look different without their clothes” or “well, they may only have had offspring by biological engineering”, but saying those things is clearly reading the comic books against the intent of the writers. Comic book writers are not, after all, going to add a footnote “… and there wasn’t any biological engineering” just to keep you from making the supposition.

  19. Pingback: I Married a Skrull! | Law and the Multiverse

  20. If Superman and Lois Lane had a child, could Superman be compelled to pay child support?

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