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Announcement Topic: Legislation & Advocacy

CT JP Appointments ~ Strategy Session


On October 10, 2023, Connecticut Secretary of State Stephanie Thomas met with JPus managing member Loretta Jay, State Representative Cristin McCarthy Vahey (Fairfield, Bridgeport) and SOTS chief of staff, Gabe Rosenberg to develop a strategy to professionalize the role of JPs in the state.

Discussions focused on the importance of training, protecting vulnerable citizens and fairness of the appointment process. Potential partners were identified and marching orders established. Onward!

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CT Ends Child Marriage!

Ninth State in the US

It is fitting that after championing an end to child marriage in Connecticut, Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz was the one who signed the bill that protects children from marriage before they have legal protections. The Justice of the Peace Association is thrilled that its managing member, Loretta Jay, was invited to partake in the momentous occasion. This is an important recognition that our membership’s voice was heard, standing together, professional marriage officiants.

JPus’ Loretta Jay with Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz and State Representative Sarah Keitt
The Commemorative Bill!
Loretta Jay with State Representative Dominique Johnson


Waiting to enter the Lt. Governor’s office, Senator Herron Gaston, Representative Jillian Gilchrest, Child Marriage survivor Jennifer Bradbury and Unchained at Last Executive Director Fraidy Reiss.

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JP Appointments Bill in Jeopardy

Vote YES on SB1140 Inclusive of Section 3 Working Group

Please take a few minutes to email your Senator and Representative and ask them to vote YES on SB1140 inclusive of Section 3, creating a JP Working Group

  1. Look up your State Representative and Senator
  2. Call or send your State Representative and Senator an email asking them to support SB1140 – Inclusive of Section 3.
See talking points and sample e-mail language below. The details are important.

Current Situation

On May 16, 2023,  a new amendment was submitted in the Senate that guts the part of the bill establishing a working group (Section 3) evaluating the JP appointment process and training qualifications. This is driven by some in the Senate who don’t want any changes to the ways JPs are appointed. They like the power and leverage available to DTC and RTC Chairs. Even though it is an unfair system.
All of our hard work during the past year is on the line. We need every JP and Town Clerk (and their friends and family) who care about this to contact their State Senator and Representative and ask them to reject this amendment and instead vote for Substitute Senate Bill 1140 inclusive of Section 3

Talking Points and Background on SB1140,
An Act Concerning the Appointment of Justices of the Peace

Section 3 is reflected in Substitute Senate Bill 1140, starting on line 98:

  • (a) There is established a working group to examine and make recommendations on (a) the methods of determining how many justices of the peace positions there are in each town and statewide; (b) the portability of justice of the peace appointments across town lines; (c) the process by which justices of the peace are selected; (d) potential training, minimum qualifications, application process, and background check requirements; (e) oversight; (f) legal ramifications of misrepresenting status as a justice of the peace; (g) issues related to reporting trafficking, forced marriage, and marriage fraud; and (h) any other relevant issues.
  • Membership of the working group is bipartisan, and inclusive of JPs, Town Clerks, DTC and RTC chairs, minor political parties, the SOTS/designee and JPus/designee.
The Planning and Development Committee voted unanimously to support SB1140, inclusive of Section 3. Here is the Joint Favorable report.

Key findings of JPus’ research

  • Systemic unfairness in appointment process: Favoritism, inequality between political parties, lack of portability between towns.
  • Disparity between municipalities: Three different rules are used to determine how many JP slot are available in each city or town.
  • No training requirement: This creates opportunity for nonfeasance, jeopardizing the legality of marriages and quality of services to the public. Trained JPs are partners to recognize forced marriage and human trafficking and marriage fraud. Thus, they are another team member to protect our most vulnerable.

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Remember – as marriage officiants and town clerks, your voice and perspective matters.

CT JP Appointments ~ Q&A

We’ve heard the complaints from JPs and Town Clerks about Connecticut’s JP appointment process and the lack of JP qualifications. As a result, last year the Justice of the Peace Association took action and performed extensive research. And then, last month we released our white paper with our findings.
On Thursday, March 30, 2023 at 6PM, join me for a Zoom presentation and Q&A. We’ll talk about what we learned, what was done and what is next. This is an interactive session for JPs and Town Clerks.

Q&A, March 30th at 6:00 PM

The March 30, 2023 Q&A event has already taken place.

As a result of JPus’ efforts there has been lots of activity! Meetings with the Secretary of State and State legislators, testimony before a legislative committee and more. Read more.

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Child Marriage Press Conference in CT

JPus was honored when Connecticut Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz invited its managing member to speak at her press conference imploring the end of child marriage in Connecticut. On March 13, 2023, Loretta Jay joined child marriage survivors, other advocates, State Legislators, the DCF Commissioner and the Lt. Governor to urge the passage of HB6569.

Watch Press Conference


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VT Action Alert – Child Marriage

End Child Marriage

Ask the YOUR REPRESENTATIVE to Vote YES on H 148

Please take a few minutes to email or call your Representative and ask them to vote YES on H 148 Raising the Age of Marriage to 18.
The House Committee on Judiciary is meeting on Thursday, February 16, 2023.
There is no need for 16 & 17 year old children to marry – this isn’t about maturity, it is about legal rights. A child cannot retain an attorney, access domestic violence shelters, or sign a lease on a rental.
New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey have already passed legislation making the age of marriage 18, with no exceptions. New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut have bills to do the same.
We do not want Vermont to become the destination marriage state in the Northeast for child traffickers to increase their control over their victims.

Your steps

  1. Call or e-mail YOUR REPRESENTATIVE
  2. Let the know who you are and where you live and what you do
  3. Ask them to vote YES on H 148 – Raising the Age of Marriage to 18

Talking Points

  • As a professional marriage officiant or town clerk, you are faced with the ethical dilemma: performing a ceremony that you know is not in the best interest of the minor child or violating the law by refusing.
  • This is about legal rights, NOT about maturity.
  • A child cannot retain an attorney, access domestic violence shelters, or sign a lease on a rental. If married, child protective services cannot protect them.
  • We do not want Vermont to become the destination marriage state in the Northeast for child traffickers to further their control over their victims.
Feel free to contact JPus if you have any questions or concerns.
Remember – as marriage officiants and town clerks, you are on the front lines. Your voice and perspective matters.

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Vermont Workshop on Child Marriage

JPus works to both raise awareness about the dangers of child marriage and advocate for no-exceptions legislation. This virtual workshop, to be held on January 25, 2023 at 12:00 Noon, is focused on the issue in Vermont, and addresses officiants’ quandary if asked to perform such a union. This informative workshop will highlight the social, emotional, and ethical problems connected with child marriage, the need for “brightline” (no exceptions) laws, and what Vermont marriage officiants, clerks and citizens can do to advocate for change. More information and registration info. 

Our Partners and Co-Hosts

Survey – Sustainable Ceremonies

How are you protecting the environment? Please answer our survey about the steps you take so your marriage ceremonies are more sustainable. We’ll then share the results in a member support article so all members can help reduce our carbon footprint.


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  • Read our blog article for couples about the steps they can take for a more sustainable wedding ceremony.
  • JPus advocates for issues that affect marriage officiants.
  • Learn more about the Justice of the Peace Association.

Governor Baker Signs Child Marriage Bill

It is official, and the Justice of the Peace Association is deeply honored to witness the momentous and long-overdue occasion. On September 9, 2022, Governor Charlie Baker ceremoniously signed the bill that ended child marriage in the state of Massachusetts.

After the private bill signing, speeches and celebration followed on the interior steps of the State House. It was an exciting day recognizing all of the hard work that went into protecting the state’s children from the human rights abuse of child marriage.


  • JPus managing member Loretta Jay with Representative Kay Khan. Rep Khan and Senator Harriet Chandler led the legislative efforts for six years until the bill finally passed.
  • The ceremonial pen
  • Governor Baker with legislators and advocates
  • JPus Managing Member Loretta Jay with the Unchained at Last crowd: Executive Director Fraidy Reiss, Samantha Marder and Becca Powell.
  • Fierce advocates: Senator Chandler, Survivor Jenn, Representative Khan, Representative Ruth Balser

Loretta Jay and Rep Kay Khan at bill signing to end child marriage in Massachusetts

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Khan Thanks Coalition to End Child Marriage

Rep Kay Khan led the charge to end child marriage in the stateThe Justice of the Peace Association is a founding member of the national Coalition to End Child Marriage. In addition, JPus is an active member of state coalitions with the same name.

Representative Kay Khan

We are grateful for Massachusetts State Representative Kay Khan ‘s leadership to end child marriage in the Commonwealth. Nonetheless, she thanks us! On May 31, 2022 she sent the following thanks and update to JPus and other Coalition members.

Dear Members of the Massachusetts Coalition to End Child Marriage,
Please know that I am exceedingly grateful to all of you who helped create and support the legislation which became H.1709/S.937,  An Act to End Child Marriage in Massachusetts, filed this session by myself, Representative Paul Donato and Senator Harriette Chandler.
As you now know, as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 House Budget debate, H.1709 was filed as a budget amendment to the House Budget by House Minority Leader Bradley Jones and ultimately adopted.
The response to this bill has been overwhelmingly positive with strong bipartisan support and I truly believe the monthly meetings of the coalition were instrumental in drawing attention to the need to move the bill forward and hopefully across the finish line soon.
The final passage will be debated in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget House-Senate Conference Committee. If passed, the bill will close the loophole in Massachusetts allowing for child marriage with parental and judicial consent and will empower children in the Commonwealth.
Thank you again, for your hard work and commitment to this important issue.
Kay Khan
State Representative
11th Middlesex District (Newton)
State House, Room 167
Boston, MA 02133

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Politics of Child Marriage

Challenges getting legislation passed to end child marriageJPus’ managing member, Loretta Jay, was interviewed about the politics that affect legislation to end child marriage. A visiting fellow from Turkey, Dr. Senem Ertan-Savas is the lead investigator of the study. She is with the  Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School.

This research will systematically examine the dynamics of legislation to increase the age of marriage in different states. Furthermore, it will also investigate the debates around minimum age of marriage and the interaction between actors or factors involved in the legislation processes.

“It’s exciting that the Justice of the Peace Association’s advocacy efforts to end child marriage are recognized and included in this important research,” says Loretta Jay.  One area Dr. Ertan-Savas asked about is the strategies JPus thinks are  the most effective. (Answer: mobilizing constituents and behind the scenes work to resolve potential roadblocks.) Indeed, one of the most frustrating and sad realizations is when legislation to end child marriage stalls – even though there is no lobby opposing it.

When finished, the work will be submitted for publication in a scientific journal. Furthermore, a book is also in the works. Of course, JPus will share the published work when ready.

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Survey – Officiant Qualifications & Appointments

Each state has a different process to appoint marriage officiants. We frequently hear about problems in Connecticut. There, justice of the peace appointments are political – even though there is nothing political about the role. The resulting problems are multifold, as evidenced by the many complaints reported to JPus from our members. In response, JPus is working with legislators and the Secretary of the State’s office and interviewing stakeholders. The plan is to formulate the research into a white paper to enact legislative change.

A related matter is qualifications – especially when comparing professionals with amateurs officiants.  At JPus, we oftentimes hear from members who suggest that training should be required before someone performs a wedding. Survey results are now available.

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1-Day Solemnizer – Calls Needed

Massachusetts Call to Action

A hearing on the Resolve to establish a Commission to evaluate the 1-Day Solemnizer rule will be held on Tuesday, September 22, 2021. Calls are needed to Committee Chairs to vote S.2063 favorably out of Committee. Details, including Committee Chairs’ phone numbers and a simple script are available on our Action Alert page.

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