Ohio Senate Bill Would Allow for Marriages by “Secular Celebrants”

For Immediate Release: February 28, 2017
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
press@centerforinquiry.org - (207) 358-9785


Following two landmark court victories granting nonreligious couples in Illinois and Indiana the right to have their marriages solemnized by a Secular Celebrant, the Center for Inquiry now applauds the introduction of a bill in the Ohio State Senate by Sen. Michael Skindell that would grant this same right to secular Ohioans.

Senate Bill 52 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. If the bill becomes law, secular humanists, atheists, and other nonreligious Ohioans will no longer have to settle for marriage by government employee, or compromise their principles by paying for some quasi-religious mail-order certification. Instead, they will be able to celebrate this deeply meaningful milestone event in a way that embraces their nontheistic worldview.

Members of the Northeast Ohio branch of the Center for Inquiry (CFI) – an organization that advocates for reason, science, and secularism – was instrumental in the development of this measure, speaking face to face with lawmakers to make the case for granting nonreligious Ohioans the same privileges enjoyed by members of religious groups.

“As roughly 20% of the population does not align themselves with a church, giving the churches majority control over solemnizing marriages is an injustice,” said Monette Richards, executive director of CFI–Northeast Ohio. “All Ohioans deserve to begin their lives together with the ceremonies they want.”

SB52 has been introduced to the Senate Committee on Local Government , Public Safety and Veterans Affairs. It is co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni and Sen. Cecil Thomas.

Said Richards, “We’re confident Ohio legislators will see the victories CFI has had in Illinois and Indiana and decide passing the bill is the right thing to do, saving the citizens of Ohio the expense and long wait of a fruitless court battle.”

CFI won a major legal victory in neighboring Indiana in 2014 when 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.” And last month, U.S. District Judge Colin S. Bruce ruled that Illinois’ exclusion of Secular Celebrants from the list of those authorized to solemnize marriages was unconstitutional.


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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.