House Passes Secular Celebrant Bill in Oregon

The bill to allow secular celebrants to officiate at weddings in Oregon has advanced another important step. The House of Representatives passed HB 3483 by a 35-23 margin, sending it on to the state Senate for their consideration. CFI is very pleased, as they should be:

Today the Oregon House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow nonreligious Oregonians to have their marriages solemnized by a certified Secular Celebrant. The measure, championed by the secular humanist Center for Inquiry (CFI), passed with 35 votes.

Introduced by Rep. Mitch Greenlick and supported by the Center for Inquiry, House Bill 3483 would add organizations “whose members subscribe to secular values, beliefs and practices” to the list of those currently authorized to officially solemnize marriages in the state. This would mean that nonreligious Oregonians, or anyone who does not wish to have their marriage officiated by clergy or a government functionary, will have the option of being married by a Secular Celebrant, such as those trained and certified by CFI.

“This is a real victory for Oregonians of all persuasions—whether religious or nonreligious—who believe in equal treatment under the law,” said Brian Harvey, executive director of CFI-Portland, a branch of the Center for Inquiry. “The people of Oregon who are living fulfilling, ethical lives without religion deserve the same rights as those who are religious. This includes the right to have their marriages solemnized by someone who shares their life stance. No one would deny a religious couple’s right to be married by a representative of their worldview, and we who hold dear the principles of science and reason ask for nothing more and nothing less.”

Added Harvey, “We trust that the Senate and governor will show the same wisdom exemplified today by these 35 legislators in the House, and make this bill the law of the land.”

If the Senate passes it, the governor is likely to sign it. We’re working on getting a similar bill here in Michigan, but we aren’t nearly so far along in the process.

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  •!/TabbyLavalamp Tabby Lavalamp

    See? Real faith-based marriage is already collapsing! Damn you, the gays and the Supreme Court of the USA!

  • dingojack




    * what are the chances of it passing in the OR Senate? (60% or better?)

  • Josef Mulroney

    i shouldn’t ask, but what were the reasons for the twenty three opposed to his?

  • JustaTech

    Nice! I had a secular wedding in Washington (state), but I don’t actually know how our celebrant got her credentials. She might have done the mail-away thing, or it might have been a straight-up secular officiant thing.

  • favog

    Particularly since I live in Oregon — “Hurrah!”

  • democommie

    I think it’s past time that we had some sexual celebrants–oh, wait, what? Nemmind.

  • heddle

    In my opinion, this goes in the wrong direction. Getting married legally should be nothing more than submitting a completed form to the clerk of courts. Anything else (any kind of ceremony, religious or secular) should be optional and non-binding. We shouldn’t be granting more people the right to officiate–we should be taking that right away.

  • Michael Heath

    Major technical difficulties prevents me from quoting heddle, or even editing this post prior to publishing it.

    David, I think you meant to argue there should be no delegated government power to decide who gets to officiate a wedding ceremony. Rights are inalienable, government doesn’t grant them.

    So I agree with your point, just pointing out that you’re conflating powers with rights.

  • tfkreference

    Notwithstanding MH’s point, dr. heddle, I agree.

    In the mean time, I’ve officiated a secular wedding in Michigan. My credentials, authorized by the State of Minnesota and consequently recognized by the State of Michigan, are an ordination from the Church of the Latter Day Dude ( Of course, dwelling on technicalities beyond the letter of the law isn’t very dude.

  • spamamander, internet amphibian

    @3 The 23 against were likely all from Eastern Oregon, which is a redneck hellhole. (I can say this, because I live in Eastern Washington, which is also a redneck hellhole.)

  • colnago80

    Re heddle @ #7

    It is my information that that’s how it more or less works in places like France and Germany. Marriage there is entirely a civil matter. Of course, if the happy couple also wants a religious ceremony, that’s fine too, except that the religious ceremony has no legal standing.

  • eric


    In my opinion, this goes in the wrong direction. Getting married legally should be nothing more than submitting a completed form to the clerk of courts. Anything else (any kind of ceremony, religious or secular) should be optional and non-binding.

    We shouldn’t make perfect the enemy of good. Equitable celebrant laws are not the ‘wrong direction’ given that your ultimately preferred option is not realistic; at least not in most US states at this time. “This now, that later” is a step in the right direction compared to “do nothing now, that later.”

    Moreover, AFAIK there is no legal ruling on what constitutes an actual ceremony, so the ‘celebrant’ requirement is really just a “minimally vetted third party witness” requirement. Its not much different from requiring a notary public co-signature on some other types of important contract. Which, I think, is a fine thing to require for such a significant economic and long-term contract as a marriage. My own legally-required ‘celebration’ was about 2 minutes long. While I didn’t really like the state forcing me to use a religiously-oriented celebrant, I don’t really have a problem with the state telling me I have spend a minute with a third-party witness before I join two economic households for, hypothetically, life.

  • Raging Bee

    We shouldn’t be granting more people the right to officiate–we should be taking that right away.

    I really don’t know what you mean by that, heddle, so I’m going to be charitable and say that sounds like a really silly idea. The fact is, people WANT wedding ceremonies and rituals, not just signed and notarized forms, and rituals require an officiant; and I really can’t see what good can possibly be done by taking away the ability to officiate.

    As long as states are going to have any sort of marriage enshrined in law, there will have to be marriage ceremonies of some sort, so the state will always have to license officiants to make sure it’s done with a minimal degree of competence and fairness.

  • Peter the Mediocre

    Where I live, secular weddings (the celebrant is usually a municipal court judge) seem to be pretty flexible. There are no specific vows required, and it’s not uncommon for couples to write their own ceremony. Typically the judges have no problem with that. There’s no reason why the ceremony couldn’t be as simple as “Are you both sure you want to do this?” and if they both agree, “Okay, you’re married now”. Couples usually want a bit more ceremony than that, and the judges typically have a standard script that they use, but that’s custom, not law.