Getting married is one of the most important days in a persons life. Commitment is a personal choice and an important promise to love and cherish someone. Unlike some other states, Pennsylvania’s government is still present at every wedding ceremony: by placing restrictive limits on who couples can choose to officiate their wedding.
If your wedding officiant was a former priest, an atheist, a minister ordained online, a retired priest, a part time priest, a religious family friend, or one of many other kinds of officiants couples commonly choose; Pennsylvania may claim your marriage is invalid.
State law currently only specifically recognizes certain religious figures or government officials as valid options to officiate a wedding. Every county in Pennsylvania has a disclaimer of liabilitystating that they are unclear about the states marriage laws.
Current law results in expensive and limited officiant service options for Pennsylvanians. This law has already been the subject of multiple lawsuits. These laws make weddings more expensive for poor and vulnerable communities. Added cost and bureaucracy mean people are less likely to get married. As a result, more Pennsylvania children being born into single parent households.
This law is a problem for all Pennsylvanians, not just those saying “I Do.”
What do we do now?
I met with my representative to fix these problems. I asked her to introduce a bill to mend this error in the law. The bill was drafted, circulated for cosponsorship, and has sat for months without even being introduced into committee. The state house has now left for summer break, and left this bill unaddressed. It has been a failure by my representative, and the entire legislative body in Harrisburg. It is their job to fix this problem in the law and help citizens.
There is some debate as to whether this was a partisan decision or just a lack of action. Perhaps it was an oversight. I emailed my representative, asking for clarification and next steps, and I received no response. That is better than my state senator, who never called or emailed me back in the first place.
I am getting married next week, on July 26, 2019. My future wife and I want the freedom to choose the best officiant for us. My freedoms should not be limited to whenever it is convenient for the statehouse to respect them.
The officiant we selected is the right person for us — that is all that matters. We do not want or need Pennsylvania’s government to be present at our wedding. I am also a wedding officiant. I have officiated weddings for couples who live across the country. Pennsylvania law is biased and ineffective compared to other states.
Every person should be able to choose their officiant without bureaucratic red tape. Marriage is too important. It’s time Pennsylvania got out of the way.