Photo Credits: Wedding Chick
Most of the states in US require certain government officials like judges or religious ministers to perform a wedding ceremony in order for it to be valid. It is not possible for persons who don’t have some kind of legal authority to do this so some people have found the way to cross this obstacle. There are places where people can get an instant online “ordination” in order to gain the legal right to solemnize marriage. But many states grant this authority only to religious ministers while denying this right to “secular celebrants,” people who obtained that title through training. Now, after almost two years long legal battle, marriages in Michigan can be solemnized by non-religious celebrants.
The “fight” started in 2018 when The Center for Inquiry (CFI) filed the lawsuit. According to Patheos, CFI, an organization that advances reason, science, and humanist values, asserted that Michigan law Chapter 551.7 violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by bestowing exclusive authority to solemnize marriages to religious ministers, while denying that authority to Secular Celebrants. The plaintiffs, Jennifer Beahan and Ed Brayton, who were both certified secular celebrants but did not have the legal authority to perform the ceremony, sued the Clerk of Kent County for blocking their attempts to solemnize weddings, though she herself was just following the law as written.
The state of Michigan, which is now under Democratic control, has dropped its opposition to the lawsuit stating that Secular Celebrants are already covered by existing law. This means that the state will not change the law but they gave an interpretation that there is no legal obstacle for non-religious celebrants to solemnize marriages. “What’s most important here is that Michigan couples with a secular worldview now have the same right as any religious couple: the right to have their weddings officiated and solemnized by someone who represents their deeply-held beliefs, and not feel they must settle for a government-appointed functionary or someone with a mail-order ordination” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and Legal Counsel, as Patheos reports. “One quarter of Michigan’s population is religiously unaffiliated, and for their state government to finally acknowledge that they, too, deserve equal marriage rights is a genuine victory.”
This is a victory for those who started the process but also for many people in Michigan state who want their marriage ceremony to be secular. The state has just confirmed what is completely logical, that solemnizing a marriage should be open to religious and secular people on equal basis without discrimination.