An Event: Getting Ready to Present “The Montana Gin Marriage Law of 1935” — to Smart Women

Brubakers 1935

Ivy and Albert Brubaker, 1935

I’ve been getting ready to reprise my presentation “The Montana Gin Marriage Law of 1935” to Smart Women on Wednesday, October 9, at 3 p..m. at Aspen Point in Bozeman. I talked about the controversial law on September 28 last year at the Pioneer Museum of Bozeman and I’ve been revising my notes. The law, which went into effect on July 1, 1935, required couples to get a health certificate signed by a doctor, and wait three days to get a marriage license. When doctors refused to sign the certificates, Montanans discovered it was nearly impossible to get a marriage license.

When I made my presentation last year, I speculated that my parents may have had the only August wedding in Montana in 1935. Since then Myrna Rytl of Bozeman told me her parents, Albert Sidney Brubaker and Ivy Marjory Fluss, were married on Aug. 11, 1935, at the family ranch in Prairie County, Montana, about 18 south of Terry. Myrna says her parents found a doctor who was willing to sign the required health certificate.They’re the only people I know of who complied with the letter of the Gin Marriage Law.

My parents got around the law by buying their marriage license in June and holding onto it until the August wedding date that they had been planning for several months. That was perfectly legal. Many couple had July weddings with licenses they bought in June, but few waited until August.

In the 1920s and 30s, many states passed Gin Marriage Laws, which got their name because they were designed to keep drunken couples from marrying after gin parties during prohibition. But Montana’s law was far more rigid than most and set off a complicated chain of events including couples traveling out of state to get married, a petition drive and a referendum election to get the law repealed.

You can read about it here. Better still, come to my presentation.


— Photo courtesy of Myrna Rytl.

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