When Magnús Kristjánsson and Þuríður Sigurðardóttir were married in the spring of 1874 by their branch president, Loftur Jónsson, they did not understand that the marriage was illegal. According to Icelandic law, only officials of the Lutheran Church could perform marriages. The local Lutheran minister refused to register the marriage, and the couple was reported to the magistrate and threatened with a forced separation.
Later that year, Denmark granted Iceland its own constitution, which allowed greater religious freedom. Nevertheless, the contested marriage sparked debate in Iceland. Locally, the district governor called the couple’s cohabitation “scandalous.” Magnús valiantly refused to divorce Þuríður, declaring he was “a law-abiding Icelandic citizen” because he had taken the initiative to have the marriage registered. Additionally, he appealed to the governor, asserting that his constitutional rights had been violated.
Eventually a royal ruling was issued declaring that a county magistrate could perform a civil marriage and that a Lutheran pastor was required to register it. Hence, on March 30, 1876, the first civil marriage in Iceland was performed when Magnús and Þuríður were finally officially wed. Happy and faithful in the Church, they treasured their 1876 marriage certificate for the rest of their 34-year marriage.