I Learn About Corporate Personhood the Hard Way

Sorry I was out of pocket yesterday. I got married.

It was very unexpected. I’m not pregnant or anything, just this guy I’ve been in love with my whole life was finally like, “Let’s Go For More!” and how could I turn him down?

Let’s just be frank. I have been putting this dude in my mouth for years, years, and, whew, he can wear a girl out!  He has this regemine–he calls it ten, two, four–and, if you follow it, I swear, you are just shaking by the end of the day.

He’s sweet.  He’s from Texas, originally, Waco, to be exact, but he spent formative time in St. Louis, so he appeals to my midwestern sensibility.  And he’s a doctor, so it seemed like a match made in heaven.

But, so, you know, we run down to the courthouse, get married, fittingly enough at ten and are getting our groove on for two and four when I get a call from the County.

Who even knew those folks made house calls?

“Ms. Phillips?  This is [name redacted] from the County Clerk’s office.  Did you get married today?”

“Yes, and please, I’m taking my husband’s last name, so call me–”

“About that.”


“Here in Tennessee, we don’t recognize those kinds of marriages.”

“Sir, I assure you.  I am a woman.”

“But your so-called husband…”

“Sir, my husband was born in 1885.  He received his medical degree in 1910.  Ergo, he must be a man.”


“Well, in 1910, there were only 7,000 female doctors, and we know he’s a doctor, right? So, the odds are damn slim that he’s a woman.”

“Ma’am, as far as the state of Tennessee is concerned, a corporation can’t have a gender.  It can’t legally get married.”

“A corporation has legal personhood, right?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“And, if it’s a legal person, it can enter into contracts, correct?”

“Ma’am, you just brought a can of Dr Pepper to the courthouse.  I don’t think a can of anything can make those kinds of decisions for the whole corporation.”

“Oh, okay.  I’m starting to see.  Dr Pepper, as a legal person, might go back to 1885, but my can of Dr Pepper is probably only a few months old.  A baby can’t enter into contracts, of course.”

“No, ma’am, that’s not…”

“Oh my god!  Does this make me a pedophile?  I married a baby!  Why didn’t anyone stop me from marrying a baby?  I feel dirty.  I might throw up.”

“Ma’am!  You did not marry a baby.  I don’t think.  Lord knows, you appear to have some issues, and I cannot attest to what kind of nonsense you might have tried to pull last week or the week before, but today, if the only wedding you had was the one down at the courthouse… Was that the only wedding you had?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then you did not marry a baby.  A corporation cannot be a baby.  Nor can a can of Dr Pepper.”

“But a corporation is a person, right?”

“Ma’am, I’m no legal scholar, but that’s my understanding–a corporation does indeed have legal personhood.”

“You can be a legal person without ever having been a baby?”

“You can be a legal person without actually being a real, live person.”

“So, let me get this straight.  Dr Pepper can sue me, but Dr Pepper cannot marry me.”


“Is there some easy-to-remember set of guidelines for what a corporate person can do and cannot?”

“Not that I know of, ma’am.”

“Well, shoot.  That seems like its just lending itself to these kinds of misunderstandings.”

“And yet, ma’am, in the whole state of Tennessee, you appear to be the only one with any problem.”

“I just assumed most people were comfortable living in sin.”

Anyway, so it turns out that I’m not married.  And that kind of sucks.  I mean, being single in general, is fine.  But there just seems to me to be something really perverse about extending rights, like marriage, to some people and not to others.  I mean, it doesn’t matter how much the law says “Dr Pepper is has legal personhood,” if Dr Pepper and I can’t get married, it kind of shows that the law doesn’t actually think Dr Pepper is much of a person at all.

Our wedding photo: