My friends at CFI Indiana have filed suit for the right of secular celebrants to perform weddings in that state, something the law forbids currently, and they recently had the oral arguments in the case. Under current law, marriages can only be performed by clergyman, a judge, a city or court clerk or a mayor. But the law even lists specific religions that can do it, including Quakers, Mormons, Muslims, Bahais and, for some reason, the German Baptist church. Indiana Public Radio has a report:
Under Indiana statute, marriage is essentially a two-step process. The state issues a marriage license and then it is solemnized. The state’s marriage statute spells out who can solemnize, including religious organizations and some elected officials. Solicitor General Thomas Fisher said the purpose of the statute is for the state to regulate marriage while accommodating religious groups and providing alternatives for non-religious organizations.
“Once you get beyond the contours of the historical accommodation we’re talking about, it’s pretty difficult to find a neutral rule that limits who can solemnize but still include CFI,” said Fisher.
So why limit who can solemnize them at all? Rather than just issuing a marriage license, the state should just declare them married when they sign the relevant papers. After that point, the couple can do any kind of ceremony they want to do, or none at all, with anyone they wish presiding over it. One of the coolest weddings I ever went to was performed by a gay librarian, but that was just the ceremony; the couple had already been legally married at the courthouse. That’s how it should be for everyone — the legal marriage and the ceremony should have nothing to do with one another.
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