A notary public to marry?

On March 11, the District of Columbia Council published an intention to introduce legislation, B19-142, the sole outcome of which would be to allow notaries public to solemnize marriage. (PDF)

I’ve been watching for this because I know the person who put the bug into the ear of a member of the Council. (I’m also watching for another bill, but I’ll announce that when it becomes law.) But why would this be a good idea?

  • There’s a shortage of officiants willing to do a non-sectarian or secular service. Surely not a small concern in a town as secular was Washington, and where same-sex marriage is the permitted under the law.
  • Notaries can already execute oaths. Notaries can solemnize marriage in South Carolina.
  • Lawyers, in neighboring Virginia, can solemnize marriage. This would make the process of getting married in D.C. a bit easier.

I think this law would be a improvement, even if — as a credentialed marriage officiant in D.C. — it might cost me some business. (I’ve always been open to conducting a purely secular service because of the shortage of options, but I rarely do a wedding these days.)

The part that makes me smile? I’ve asked my employer to sponsor my commission as a, um, notary public.


To think, Hubby and I could be getting married in California about now.

But would our marriage be recognized back in the District of Columbia? I think that needs to be addressed. Or perhaps not addressed, but forced.

I’ll buy the argument that nothing substantive will be done until the next Congress, but the time to act towards January is now.

Good same-sex couple news from D.C.

I didn’t even know the Omnibus Domestic Partnership Equality Amendment Act of 2008 was in the works and — lo! and behold — it passed the District of Columbia Council unanamously. Now the Congress has thirty legislative days to kill it; if there’s no action, it becomes law. If there’s a rumble, I shall call on you in Represented America to call your representatives.

The act changes:

39 new provisions which affect various laws in D.C., in particular how domestic partners fit into a family. For instance, the Human Rights Act of 1977 was expanded to include domestic partners in the definition of a family member. Previously the act specified an individual, his or her spouse — implying a legally married couple by definition — a dependent child, and any person related to either by blood.

Other provisions include adding domestic partnerships as a marital status; granting domestic partners survivor benefits in regards to retirement, workers’ compensation and other financial matters; and granting domestic partners equal footing with married couples regarding housing law. “D.C. Council Passes Domestic Partner Law Expansion” (DCist)

It’s not marriage and it is incremental — Hubby and I didn’t get a domestic partnership when they first became available because it was almost useless — but is incremental in the right direction.

I am quite happy and can’t wait to review all the new rights Hubby and I might enjoy. So you know I’ll call on you and your friends if there’s a move a-foot to crush it.

Thank you, Mildred Loving

As others have written, Mildred Jeter Loving died last Friday. She and her late husband Richard were co-plaintiffs in Loving v. Virginia, which in 1967 struck down the remaining miscegenation (anti-mixed-ethnicity marriage) laws.

That case has long given me hope that Hubby and I might enjoy legal marriage without having to move to the one state in the Union that permits it. (And even then garners no federal recognition.)

Less than a year ago, at the decision’s fortieth anniversary, Mildred Loving herself made the connection:

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that
I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

Thank you. We’ll keep at it.

Liturgical options when same sex marriage arrives

I’ve heard that a colleague in Massachusetts has wondered what kind of ceremony is proper (or indeed, necessary) for a couple married in that church, but outside the benefit of law, once marriage licences are issued same-sex couples.

Golly: I wish I had that problem, but even though I don’t, might I offer an opinion?

There needs to be a ceremony, however simple, so that the couple may contract marriage in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Until May 17, no same-sex couple, however devoted or ommitted, has had the opportunity to contract marage this way, and so in a real sense any prior service was different.

So what kind of service? The closest parallel we have is the blessing of a civil marriage, which is the same action in reverse. To review: the couple would have been married by law, and come to the church as married couple. The minister has the sole role of ecclesiastic agent: to bless, to lead prayers, and often times to lead the couple to exchange rings.

With the coming wave of previously-blessed same-sex marriages the minister serves as an agent of the court. (Indeed, from the couple’s point of view, there’s no particular reasons to return to church. The court clerk could officiate, but who are we kidding? You go to church to get married, right? Don’t bother correcting me in the comments.)

This suggests the service should be as business-like: perhaps in the pastor’s office, church parlor, or alternately, drawing from custom and if it was convenient, in the couple’s home or the pastor’s home
(really) with the following outline.

  • “Dearly beloved, on September 30, 1770, James Murray and Ted Potter vowed before their friends and a congregation of the First Church in Thule to be of one spirt and one flesh, to have and to hold one another from that day foward, and and meet today to be wed under the law of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. . . . ” In short, make public an account of what the couple has previously done, and I’d be sure to quote the actual vows they made.
  • Ask each member of the couple if he or she consents to be married to the other under the law of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Sure this is a conditional statement, but since it was a condition that didn’t hitherto exist, it seems right. On reflection, I might phrase this to say “extend your marriage under the law . . . ” Again, I wish I was in a position to have to wrestle with this!
  • Then, a simple, mutual “I take you [name] as my [husband or wife]” leaving out all the other conditions, seeing as they were vowed at the first service.
  • The minister declares them married.
  • Optionally, a prayer of thanksgiving, a blessing or both ends the