Court Knocks Down Church Weddings

Court Knocks Down Church Weddings

A FEDERAL APPEALS COURT today ruled today that state recognition of clergy-officiated marriages is unconstitutional.

In a 2-1 decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, said the use of religious officials to perform a civil function violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which requires a separation of church and state.

“A wedding performed by a religious officiant constitutes state recognition of a religious ceremony, which is in direct contravention of the Establishment Clause.†Judge Albert P. Goodman wrote for the three-judge panel.

The effect of the court’s decision is not immediate. The government will have several months to ask the court to reconsider its decision, or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision stunned lawmakers. Within hours, the Senate approved 99-0 a resolution in support of marriage. Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., campaigning in Florida, released a statement expressing “disappointment†with the court’s decision. Lawmakers also instructed their legal counsel to intervene and defend the validity of religious weddings.

In its ruling, the court said that clergy can continue to perform religious wedding ceremonies, but that those marriages would not be recognized as legally binding without a separate, civil ceremony. It was unclear what the minimum requirements for such a ceremony would be, but signing a marriage license was “not sufficient to solemnize a civil marriage,†according to the majority opinion.

The above is a satire by Citizen Smash. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see such a ruling in the near term.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. zygote says:

    You know, because it was a decision attributed to the 9th Court, I bought it.
    And you’re right, a ruling like that is probably on the horizon. I put money on the 9th making it too.

  2. McGehee says:

    Especially with Michael Newdow running around loose out there.

  3. Tom says:


    #$%# you….. I was knee deep in work today, and looked over at my RSS and there was your story. I did a doubletake thinking it was Scrappleface, saw it was you, and started cussing…. MY first thoughts were “9th District” “Boy, they have overstepped themselves today” and “Holy @#$@, now I know what the story of the next month will be.”

    It is amazing that the world has changed so much that this scenerio could be true.

  4. Paul says:

    I bit too. At least until the 5th graph.

  5. melvin toast says:

    This is pretty much what I proposed in my comment to a previous post. Actually an application domestic partnership could be filed like any other entity and no ceremony would be required. I don’t need a ceremony to file for a birth certificate or a limited partnership.

    I think people ought to realize though, that government is an ethics enforcer. It is ethical to treat people with respect etc. But it’s not unethical to treat dogs as sub-human. It’s not that we can eradicate ethical judgement from government by simply calling separation of church and state. Just because you don’t have a church doesn’t mean you don’t have a religion. Gay rights is a religion.