May 2020 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

Marriages performed by secular celebrants are now legal in Michigan, thanks to a recent ruling by the state’s attorney general.

The New York-based Center for Inquiry (CFI), a secular humanist group, in 2018 filed a lawsuit challenging a Michigan law limiting the solemnization of marriages to religious officials. Republican officials in power at the time refused to alter the law, but in elections that November, Michigan voters elected a Democratic governor and attorney general. The attorney general’s office subsequently announced that it would interpret state law to encompass secular celebrants as valid officiants.

As a result, the federal court that had been hearing the case declared it moot.

“What’s most important here is that Michigan couples with a secular worldview now have the same right as any religious couple: the right to have their weddings officiated and solemnized by someone who represents their deeply-held beliefs, and not feel they must settle for a government-appointed functionary or someone with a mail-order ordination,” said Nick Little, CFI’s vice president and legal counsel. “One quarter of Michigan’s population is religiously unaffiliated, and for their state government to finally acknowledge that they, too, deserve equal marriage rights is a genuine victory.”