Sunday, August 18, 2019

Texas Limit On Marriage Officiants Upheld

In Center for Inquiry, Inc. v. Warren, (ND TX, Aug. 16, 2019), a Texas federal district court rejected a number of constitutional challenges to a Texas law that limits those who can officiate at marriage ceremonies to clergy and specified government official. It does not allow other secular celebrants. The court, applying the Lemon test held that the law does not violate the Establishment Clause, saying in part:
The Statute does not discriminate among religions nor does it have the primary objective of favoring religion over nonreligion. At most, the Statute provides a benefit to religion that is indirect or incidental in light of the historical context of this Statute; however, this does not make the Statute unconstitutional.... The Statute still provides for civil, nonreligious ceremonies performed by judges, while also allowing those who wish to be married in a religious ceremony to do so.
The court also rejected an equal protection challenge, saying in part:
The Statute in this case rationally serves that purpose by limiting secular officiants to current and retired judges and by leaving it up to the religious organization—any religious organization—to determine who is authorized in accordance with its belief system to solemnize marriages. The fact that the Statute does not allow every secular individual trained to solemnize marriages to legally solemnize marriages in Texas does not make this statute unconstitutional. Instead, there is a rational basis for the Statute’s limitation based on both the historical practice of allowing judicial and religious officials to solemnize marriages, and because these individuals and their respective organizations can reasonably be expected to ensure the prerequisites to marriage are met and that the ceremony contains the necessary level of respect and solemnity without the need for significant involvement and oversight by the state.