Secular Celebrant Bill Advances in Oregon

Secular Celebrant Bill Advances in Oregon May 15, 2015

A bill that would allow humanist secular celebrants to officiate at weddings in Oregon is making progress in the state legislature. The bill has been advocated strongly by the CFI chapter in Portland and it has passed out of a House committee and should get a floor vote soon.

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.

History was made last year in Indiana when a federal judge ruled that the state could not bar CFI’s Secular Celebrants from solemnizing marriages, with Judge Frank Easterbrook declaring it unacceptable that the nonreligious “are shut out as long as they are sincere in following an ethical system that does not worship any god, adopt any theology, or accept a religious label.” More information on the Indiana case is available at http://bit.ly/CFICelebrantsIndiana.

“The people of Oregon who are living fulfilling, ethical lives without religion deserve the same rights as those who are religious,” said Brian Harvey, executive director of CFI-Portland, a branch of the Center for Inquiry. “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, “For the nonreligious citizens of Oregon, and for people of all persuasions who believe in equal treatment under the law, we urge the House to pass this bill.”

We’re working on getting a similar bill submitted here in Michigan. Last week we did a lobby day and found most Democrats and even a few Republicans who said they were willing to sponsor or support such legislation. The easiest way to get it passed here would be to amend another bill already submitted that would expand the list of those who can solemnize marriages to include township supervisors. As the chair of CFI-Michigan’s new advocacy committee, that’s my first priority.

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