Mary Jo Knelly and David Huggins-Daines have their wedding next Saturday, September 29th. They requested a marriage license last month. Specifically, they wanted to be married without an officiant (i.e. a priest).
Their request was denied by Timothy W. Finnerty, the Allegheny County (Pennsylvania) Register of Wills Solicitor.
… According to Pennsylvania law, Finnerty wrote, “There is no provision for the individuals to officiate at their own marriage.”
Finnerty told the couple that only those of the Quaker and Bah’ai faiths may perform their own weddings,
The couple is suing the Allegheny County Register of Wills. One of their lawyers, Sara J. Rose of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said this:
“Allowing those two faiths but not any others is a very clear-cut example of preferential treatment,” Rose said. “The First Amendment says Congress shall not pass any law respecting one religion over another or that endorses one over another.”
The couple just wants equal treatment:
“I have a deep appreciation for many of the Quaker traditions, particularly their marriage ceremony, and Mary Jo shares this conviction,” Huggins-Daines said in a statement provided by the couple’s lawyers. “Therefore, given a choice, this is how we wish to solemnize our marriage.”
Rose said the couple’s complaint was the third in two months the ACLU received in which the Register of Wills denied a request to self-officiate a wedding.
“They invited 100 people to witness their exchange of vows,” said Roslyn M. Litman, another lawyer for the couple. “The Register of Wills’ position is clearly discriminatory.”
If you are registered with the US Court’s PACER system, you can see the lawsuit here.
The wedding looks to be proceeding as scheduled, but it won’t be official anytime soon:
A federal judge did not immediately schedule a hearing on the ACLU’s request for an injunction ordering the county to issue the self-uniting license in time for their Sept. 29 wedding. The ACLU also wants the judge to strike down the county’s current policy and seeks other unspecified damages.
Incidentally, there are Humanist Celebrants across the country who can officiate non-religious weddings. That’s not what this couple wanted, but it’s a good resource to have.
(Thanks to Colin for the link!)
[tags]atheist, atheism, Humanist Celebrant[/tags]