Secular Wedding Celebrants May Soon Become a Reality in New Jersey

While Chris Christie attempts to fire and flail his way out of his bridge scandal, something actually pretty encouraging is happening under the radar in New Jersey. The Garden State may soon allow secular civil celebrants to officiate marriages. The New Jersey State Senate voted 32-5 in favor of that bill today.

In March of 2012, a bill was introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula that adds to the list of those already authorized to solemnize marriages in New Jersey this amendment:

… and any civil celebrant who is trained and certified to solemnize marriages or civil unions from an established non-denominational or educational non-profit organization dedicated to training such individuals are hereby authorized to solemnize marriages or civil unions between such persons as may lawfully enter into the matrimonial relation or civil union; and every religious society, institution or organization in this State may join together in marriage or civil union such persons according to the rules and customs of the society, institution or organization.

What that means is that one needn’t be a member of the clergy or an official in government to help two people get hitched. If enacted, this amendment would allow for secular celebrants, even those certified by a “educational non-profit organization,” like, say, I don’t know, the Center for Inquiry (though there is no CFI-New Jersey yet).

The bill passed the New Jersey Assembly overwhelmingly in 2012, 66 to 10. Today, the State Senate finally got around to casting their votes. Now it goes back to the Assembly once more time (due to some language changes since it was first introduced), where the bill will likely pass without controversy.

Then it would head to the desk of Governor Christie for a final signature. Assuming he’s not busy…

You may recall that Washington, D.C. recently enacted similar legislation, and my employing organization, the Center for Inquiry, is fighting a court battle in Indiana to reverse that state’s prohibition on secular solemnization of marriages.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the New Jersey legislation as it moves.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Paul Fidalgo

Paul is communications director for the Center for Inquiry, as well as an actor and musician. His personal blog is Near-Earth Object, and he tweets as @paulfidalgo. He is the author of a short (and cheap!) Kindle book on the atheist political movement, Under the Stained Glass Ceiling: Atheists' Precarious Place in Modern American Politics.


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