A federal judge has ruled that the state of Illinois must allow humanist secular celebrants to solemnize marriages in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff was friend and fellow Patheos blogger Galen Broaddus. I’m still baffled as to why Illinois fought the case in the first place.
In a milestone victory for nonreligious Americans, a U.S. District Court judge ruled today that certified Secular Celebrants are now authorized to solemnize marriages in the state of Illinois. In the suit brought by the Center for Inquiry, excluding Secular Celebrants from the list of those authorized to solemnize marriages was declared unconstitutional.
Previously, solemnizing marriages in Illinois was the exclusive purview of religious officials or select government employees, leaving no recourse for nonreligious couples who preferred an officiant who shares their closely held secular values. But today, U.S. District Judge Colin S. Bruce ruled that “marriages solemnized by Center for Inquiry secular celebrants are valid,” and ruled out any efforts to preclude Secular Celebrants from solemnizing marriages.
The Center for Inquiry, a national nonprofit that advocates for reason, science, and secularism, brought the suit with plaintiff Galen Broaddus, a CFI-certified Secular Celebrant who is now free to perform and solemnize marriages. CFI was represented pro bono by J. Michael Showalter, of the Chicago-based law firm Schiff Hardin LLP. For those in Illinois who wish to become Secular Celebrants, training by Reba Boyd Wooden, director of CFI’s celebrant program, will be held in the state in the coming weeks.
“I am truly relieved by this ruling, and I am ready to get to work,” said Broaddus. “I think of all the couples who feel marginalized for being nonreligious, who either had to compromise their core beliefs by taking part in a religious wedding ceremony, or else settled for a government wedding. But now they have the opportunity to have one of the most deeply meaningful events of their lives commemorated in a way that reflects who they are.”
The strangest part of this was that Illinois is in the 7th Circuit, where the court of appeals already ruled this very way only a couple years ago. For some bizarre reason, the Illinois legislature refused to pass legislation to fix their unconstitutional law, which prompted this lawsuit. Why they decided to fight it when the matter was already settled and they had zero chance of winning is beyond my comprehension. They will now be forced to pay not only their own legal fees but those of the winning side as well. I’d call that political malpractice.