Ohio Bill Introduced To Allow Any Person To Solemnize Marriages

photo of a Humanist Celebrant performing a marriage

Outside of certain government officials, Ohio state law requires other people who want to officiate marriages to be ‘ordained’ in their religious society or congregation. A bill introduced on June 30th would remove the requirement and make it easier for secular people to perform marriages and have non-theistic weddings.

Representative Mike Foley (D-14) and Representative Robert F. Hagan (D-58) introduced the bill, which would reduce religious entanglement with what is actually a civil act between two people.

H.B. 591 would add: Any other person or entity that has registered to solemnize marriages with the secretary of state – to the list of people allowed to perform marriages in the state of Ohio and:

(B) Any other person or entity that wishes to solemnize marriages shall register with the secretary of state and the secretary of state shall issue a license authorizing the person or entity to solemnize marriages in this state. The person shall produce for inspection the person’s license to solemnize marriages or, if applicable, the license of the entity on behalf of which the person is solemnizing marriages, upon demand of any party to a marriage at which the person officiates or proposes to officiate or upon demand of any probate judge.

Secular people who didn’t want a government official to solemnize the marriage could have someone who was “ordained” by the Universal Life Church (for example) or used a Humanist celebrant, who is trained and certified (ordained) by the American Humanist Association.

H.B. 591 would do away with the need for secular people to work around the law to have a formal non-theistic wedding.

Removal of the limitation of requiring “ordained” people would also reduce entanglement of religion into a civil act – marriage. Having someone ordained is not really needed for a legal wedding. Judges and Mayors can perform weddings for example, so why not open up the position to people committed enough to register with the state who aren’t professional ministers or priests. The couple would still need to have a marriage licence and comply with all the current laws to have a legal wedding. The government shouldn’t require the person performing the wedding to be religious.

Having the limitation in the law gives yet another way for religious conservatives to control who can be married which isn’t a good idea.

Please contact your legislators at the state house and encourage them to support this bill.


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