Let's Make Marriage Equal In Every Way

Across the United States, people are fighting to keep the institution of marriage separate from the controls of religious tradition. Yet, even in places that have largely shed religious requirements and embraced same-sex marriage, the fight for full marriage equality has not been won.

In the District of Columbia, only ordained religious leaders may perform marriages outside of the courtroom. Citizens that desire a nonreligious wedding have no option but to be married by a judge, and then they can have an unofficial second ceremony elsewhere.  This type of regulation is not limited to D.C., and even of those progressive states that have legalized gay marriage—Iowa, New York, and New Hampshire—all have similar restrictions on the books. There is no good reason that state governments should restrict the rights of secular minded people to be wed by the person and in the place of their choice.

Current D.C. regulations allow for individuals to apply for authorization to celebrate marriages.  However, as part of the application you must have a celebrant or leader from your church vouch for you first, and if you can’t, you are out of luck. Of course, there is a demand for secular weddings held in places that are more private or romantic (no offense to courtrooms) so some people find ways around the current law.  This can mean having a friend go through the free online ordination for the Universal Life Church, or contacting a Humanist celebrant to perform the ceremony (in some states even this is a challenge). But these loopholes are not a solution; they are an exploited crack in a biased law.

The District was right to legalize same-sex marriage. The next step is to change the law so that secular Americans have the same opportunities as those that choose religious ceremonies. In states like California, Massachusetts and Vermont, anyone over the age of 18 can apply to be a “Deputy for a Day.”  D.C. and other states should follow this precedent. By removing the illicit privileging of religion, a friend or a family member can preside over a wedding, and couples can define the location and style of their own ceremonies, for themselves. 


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