Ohio Senate Bill Would Allow Atheists to Solemnize Marriages

For Immediate Release: February 18, 2015
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
press@centerforinquiry.org - (207) 358-9785

Charting the next great step toward achieving nonreligious Americans’ equal status with their religious neighbors, the Center for Inquiry has partnered with Ohio State Senator Michael J. Skindell to introduce a bill that will authorize Secular Celebrants to solemnize marriages in Ohio.

Ohio Senate Bill 50 would reword the current law governing marriage officiants to allow anyone, regardless of religious affiliation, to register with the Secretary of State and receive the authorization to solemnize marriages. Once signed into law, secular humanists, atheists, and other nonreligious Ohioans on one the most meaningful moments of their lives would no longer have to settle for marriage by government employee, or by someone ordained through some quasi-religious mail-order certification scheme. Instead, they will be able to celebrate this wonderful milestone event in a way that honors and embraces their nontheistic worldview.

“Marriage is a union based on trust, understanding, and honesty,” said Monette Richards, president of CFI-Northeast Ohio. “In Ohio, the ability to solemnize marriages is restricted to church ministers and public officials. This restriction puts that honesty out of reach of many nonbelievers, who are currently unable to hold their marriage ceremonies in a way that is true to their life-stance.” 

Members of the Northeast Ohio branch of the Center for Inquiry (CFI) – a national organization that advocates for science, reason, and secular values – actively lobbied the State Legislature to take up this bill providing for equal treatment for nonreligious Americans. The bill is currently co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Schiavoni.

“Thanks to a federal court, the law has already been changed in our neighboring Indiana, and nonreligious couples are now being wed by Secular Celebrants,” said Richards. “But it shouldn’t take a court to force the same kind of change in Ohio. By passing Sen. Skindell’s bill, the State Senate can be fully inclusive of its nonreligious citizens, and do it through a normal legislative process.”

Last June, in neighboring Indiana, Judge Frank Easterbrook of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of Secular Celebrants solemnizing marriages, stating in his opinion that secular Americans “want their own views to be expressed by celebrants at marriages, [and] the state must treat them the same way it treats religion.” He also noted that secular Americans “are unwilling to pretend to be something they are not, or pretend to believe something they do not; they are shut out as long as they are sincere in following an ethical system that does not worship any god, adopt any theology, or accept a religious label.”


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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at centerforinquiry.org.