In the book Counterfeiting Exposed, by David M. Hopkins, is the assertion that “it is now possible to fake everything.” Everything such as digitally altered photos, orgasms, lip-synching, love, vintage wines, famous paintings, marriage, designer jeans, DVDs, gender, genetically altered plant life, persona, and qualifications.
The State of California allows the use of a Confidential Marriage. This type of marriage is the common and favorite counterfeit marriage ploy for bigamists as California State Family Code Part 4, Section 500 allows for the minimum of fuss and no publicity.
It provides that when a man and a woman, not minors, have been living together as husband and wife, they may be married pursuant to this chapter by a person authorized to solemnize a marriage. Chapel owners are legally allowed to preside at these Confidential Marriages as long as they have a ministerial certificate. Those ministerial certificate are as easy to get as a Confidential Marriage aka Secret Marriage.
California’s Confidential Marriage does NOT require a marriage license, blood test, any waiting period, nor a public record of it. In 1972, only 532 such weddings were performed in Los Angeles County and adjacent Orange County. A few short years later it was 12,212. Today it is more than 350,000 state wide annually, and growing.
“It’s one of the greatest laws,” said Edie Steinmetz, owner of Doves of Happiness Wedding Chapel in Inglewood. From $700,000 a year to today’s multi-million dollar a year secret-marriage business, California’s Confidential Marriage is Big Business. A rather large and increasingly growing number of couples take advantage of this law to avoid red tape and incidentally, to keep the marriage secret. Steinmetz goes on to say “It allows a lot of people to get married who otherwise would not be able to.” That includes the already married. Couples fill in the confidential marriage form, certifying they have been living together as husband and wife. That form is NOT available to anyone for inspection. That makes it easy for applicant’s who want to “forget” they are already married when they marry again.
Dr. A. W. Morey, owner of the Lafayette Wedding Chapel in Long Beach, shrugged off any problem. William St. John, Orange County clerk, said “There is nothing on the form that requires a couple to say how long they have been living together, or if they had a previous divorce, or if that divorce is finalized.”
A recent example of the successful use of this Confidential Marriage is found in the Marin County, California and Reno, Nevada public records under the legal cases CV 070655, FL 6764, FL 7442 and DV 07-00352. A wife now residing in Nevada alleged bigamy, among other things, against her husband from their 1991 California Confidential Marriage, as well as a trust executed between themselves in 2000 that owned their Nevada home and rentals, husband obtaining for them in 2000 Nevada homeowners and landlord’s insurance in both their married names, as well as the husband forging her married name in his purchase of a car husband bought in California in 2000. According to courts papers, the Nevada homeowners and landlord’s insurance continued in both their married names until 2006 when the Nevada wife found out there was now a California wife. Four witnesses testified in the Reno, Nevada court in support of the Nevada wife’s claims. Those witnesses were the family mechanic since 1997, a tenant of theirs, the family clerk at the Nevada credit union, and a client.
“A guy’s who’s got the chutzpah to pull the wool over somebody’s eyes. That’s a good definition of a bigamist,” said University of Cincinnati clinical psychiatry professor Linda Chernus. “One (spouse) is hard enough,” Chernus joked, who has researched bigamists and believes generally they have such low self-esteem that they marry multiple spouses to compensate with a sense of grandiosity. “They need to control women, to keep secrets and keep autonomy so no one knows what’s going on inside them. Chernus said. “There may also be some underlying insecurity. (Bigamists) have a sense of invincibility that they can get away with this. They think they can get away with anything.”