04/04/2014 04:01 pm ET Updated Apr 04, 2014

Minnesota Lawmakers Introduce Bills To Allow Atheist Wedding Officiants


Minnesota state Sen. John Marty (D) introduced a bill on Friday to amend the state’s existing statute on civil marriages to allow atheists and humanists to preside over wedding ceremonies.

The bill would grant "solemnization authorization," which includes legally signing marriage certificates, to secular celebrants appointed by atheist or humanist organizations.

Under current state law, “ministers of any religious denomination … are authorized to solemnize a civil marriage” after filing documents from their spiritual assembly with the local county registrar.

The measure, SF 2958, aims to add “any other celebrant,” specifically identifying atheists or humanists, to the law’s existing statute on civil marriages.

The bill, backed by Minnesota Atheists, would also mandate secular groups appointing wedding officiants to be registered as a nonprofit with the Minnesota Office of the Secretary of State and hold tax-exempt status as an educational organization.

A House version of the proposal, HF 2966, was introduced by state Rep. Phyllis Kahn (D) in March and awaits a hearing by the House Civil Law Committee.

Washington, D.C. and New Jersey legislatures have passed comparable measures permitting certified secular celebrants to perform wedding ceremonies.

A similar effort by atheists in Indiana was thwarted in 2012 when a federal judge rejected the Center for Inquiry’s lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on secular officiants solemnizing wedding ceremonies.

"It would be difficult to imagine a clearer way to classify nonbelievers as second-class citizens," Ron Lindsay, CFI's president, said in a 2012 statement. "A wedding is one of the most important ceremonies in a person's life, and it is just as meaningful to atheists as it is to theists. It's disappointing that a 21st-century court refused to recognize this reality."

(h/t Raw Story)



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