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A different kind of marriage equality April 13, 2013

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Rants.
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So, with all the progress being made toward removing the barriers on equal access to getting married, there’s a different sort of barrier that’s mostly still up: restrictions on who’s allowed to conduct marriage ceremonies.

In general, clergy members can get approval to do marriages.  In Virginia, if they are a member of an in-state church, they have to apply, and fill out all kinds of details about their education, classes, church structure, etc., and then they are approved to do as many weddings as they want.   Here’s an application for this from Fairfax County, Virginia, website.

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/courts/circuit/pdf/clergyi.PDF

It includes questions like this:

2. Describe in detail your credentials for being a minister (i.e. schooling, degree, seminars, etc.)

4. How do your responsibilities differ from those of the members of the organization?

5. List the privileges and benefitsderived from your ordination (i.e. perform baptisms, authority to preside over services, etc.)

Clergy from out-of-state churches can apply for a one-time approval for a particular wedding.

So what about religions with no ordained clergy?  And how about all of us non-religious people?

Like out-of-state clergy, one-time approval for a particular wedding is available, BUT the celebrant has to also pony up a $500.00 deposit.  What???

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/courts/circuit/pdf/1x_civil_marriage.pdf

How is this fair?  If you bring in a clergyman from some minor religion from somewhere far away, they pay no deposit, but if you have no official clergy there’s a $500 deposit???  I’ve lived in the state practically my whole life, have been a notary for many years, and yet they would force me to put down a deposit because they would not trust me to send the paperwork in afterwards.  But somebody who’s “clergy”, like Fred Phelps, they’d trust him?

Recently, the Sikhs, who have no ordained clergy, sued over this very issue, and I’m glad to say that they won:

http://www.wjla.com/articles/2013/04/virginia-marriage-law-unfair-to-sikhs-judge-rules-86940.html

But that still leaves the unaffiliated out in the cold.  It’s apparently not possible, at least in this county, for us to get a permanent authorization to celebrate marriages.  So my spouse, who is already a judicial officer for the state, could not get a standing authorization for celebrating weddings and would have to pay a deposit every time.

I obviously have a problem with this.  Part of my problem is that it’s getting the state too involved in deciding on what counts as a religion and what doesn’t.  (I’m an ordained Pastafarian minister, and perhaps someday I’ll test out seeing if the state will approve me as clergy.)  But my biggest problem is that there really isn’t a need to single out clergy as more qualified than anybody else to conduct weddings.  There could just be one procedure for qualifying as a permanent celebrant, including a test on the paperwork rules, and clergy would have no special preference on this.  All temporary celebrants would post bond, clergy or not.  That would be fair to everybody, and no more discrimination questions or lawsuits.

(Yes, I know this is a small issue compared to getting gay marriage legalized.  But it’s one example of the tremendous privilege that religion has in the US today.)

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Comments»

1. john zande - April 13, 2013

You’re an ordained Pastafarian minister? Sweeeeet! I do believe i’m now going to re-propose to my wife and get re-married under the Sauces true love. 🙂

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ubi dubium - April 13, 2013

It’s easy to get ordained. Just go to venganza.org, and the certificate is $20. The trick is getting your jurisdiction to accept it.

Be sure to get cool Pirate regalia for your re-marriage! Yarrrggh!

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john zande - April 13, 2013

Then i’d just be marrying myself 😦

I do however like the pirate idea 🙂

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ubi dubium - April 13, 2013

You could get the ordination as a present for a friend, then you’d be all set.

Pirates are the chosen people of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (pbuH), after all. And you’d also be doing your part to reduce global warming, so that’s a bonus.

(We deeply believe that the decline in pirates is the direct cause of global warming. We have a graph, so it’s sciency, and it also needs to be taught in public school science classes. At least any science class that’s also teaching creationism.)

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john zande - April 14, 2013

Ramen, brother! Teach the controversy… sorry, I mean, teach the truth!

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makagutu - April 14, 2013

I sure like this especially that part on pirates and global warming

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2. cag - April 14, 2013

On a serious note, here in British Columbia we have secular Marriage Commissioners. My neighbor used to be a Marriage Commissioner for New Westminster BC (now retired). At times he would need a witness, so I have been a witness for some of the weddings. Apart from the license, his charge was $75.00 plus expenses. If the wedding was done at his place or on the grounds here, there was no expense. Witnesses were paid $10.00 and there needed to be 2 witnesses.
Some weddings were kind of sad, such as the underage girl who got her mothers permission to marry, but her mother did not attend. I would be surprised if that marriage, driven by getting away from her mother, lasts.

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3. tmso - April 14, 2013

You have some good points. I’ve always thought the special status breeding parents have in the U.S. tax system to be awfully screwy, but then again marriage as an “institution” is so ingrained in our society and law, it will be hard to separate the two. Nonetheless, I think it would be interesting to try.

That doesn’t really have anything to do with your post, but that’s what your post made me think of. 😮

Good luck if you try registering as a Pastafarian minister. I think any lawyer could make it stick. I mean, Scientology is considered a valid religion, so why not? 🙂

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