For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Fidalgo
Phone: (207) 358-9785
January 04, 2017
Prohibition against Center for Inquiry’s Celebrants Declared Unconstitutional
In a milestone victory for nonreligious Americans, a U.S. District Court judge ruled today that certified Secular Celebrants are now authorized to solemnize marriages in the state of Illinois. In the suit brought by the Center for Inquiry, excluding Secular Celebrants from the list of those authorized to solemnize marriages was declared unconstitutional.
Previously, solemnizing marriages in Illinois was the exclusive purview of religious officials or select government employees, leaving no recourse for nonreligious couples who preferred an officiant who shares their closely held secular values. But today, U.S. District Judge Colin S. Bruce ruled that “marriages solemnized by Center for Inquiry secular celebrants are valid,” and ruled out any efforts to preclude Secular Celebrants from solemnizing marriages.
The Center for Inquiry, a national nonprofit that advocates for reason, science, and secularism, brought the suit with plaintiff Galen Broaddus, a CFI-certified Secular Celebrant who is now free to perform and solemnize marriages. CFI was represented pro bono by J. Michael Showalter, of the Chicago-based law firm Schiff Hardin LLP. For those in Illinois who wish to become Secular Celebrants, training by Reba Boyd Wooden, director of CFI’s celebrant program, will be held in the state in the coming weeks.
“I am truly relieved by this ruling, and I am ready to get to work,” said Broaddus. “I think of all the couples who feel marginalized for being nonreligious, who either had to compromise their core beliefs by taking part in a religious wedding ceremony, or else settled for a government wedding. But now they have the opportunity to have one of the most deeply meaningful events of their lives commemorated in a way that reflects who they are.”
The Center for Inquiry made history in 2014 when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the neighboring state of Indiana must allow Secular Celebrants to solemnize marriages. With these crucial victories for nonreligious Americans’ equality, CFI will now look to make similar gains in states such as Texas, Michigan, and Ohio.
“We made sincere efforts with the Illinois legislature to have the authority to solemnize marriages extended to Secular Celebrants, and it’s frustrating that this simple matter had to be settled through the courts,” said Nicholas Little, Vice President and General Counsel of CFI. “It would be so much easier — and far less expensive to taxpayers — if lawmakers across the country would agree to work with us so that secular couples everywhere can be married in accordance with their values.”
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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 mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net.