On June 19, 2018 the Boston Globe ran a story saying that JPs aren’t getting calls for weddings because couples are having friends and family members officiate using the state’s One-Day Solemnizer rule. JPus was concerned about this, as it mischaracterized the important legal (and professional) role that JPs have, and failed to mention all of the problems that ensue from a lay-officiant.
The Boston Globe published JPus’ letter to the editor on July 9, 2018, and we’ve been in discussions with the reporter for the original piece. She has been receptive to our concerns and is working with her editor on a follow-up story.
To the Editor, Boston Globe
The article “ ‘We are gathered here today?’ For justices of peace, trend is no.” (Page A1, June 19) missed the mark. It focused on friends and family replacing professional JPs to perform marriages using Massachusetts’ one-day solemnizer rule, but it failed to mention that JPs’ state-mandated responsibility is not to say the words “I now pronounce you . . . ” but rather to legally certify the marriage.
This spring the Justice of the Peace Association surveyed Massachusetts town clerks and learned that as many as 90 percent of the one-day solemnizers they had dealt with made significant legal errors, jeopardizing the validity of marriages. Couples anguished when they found they were unable to close on a new home or enroll in a health plan, or realizes, as one Dennis bride did, that her wedding before 200 people . . . wasn’t.
The town clerks said lay officiants’ errors double their workload (retyping documents or chasing down that college buddy), resulting in additional staff time and costs to municipalities.
As state governments take steps to increase the minimum age to wed, eliminating the professional JP removes an important safeguard for children. JPs have a legal obligation to make sure information provided is accurate and both parties are willing participants.
The members of our professional organization abide by a code of ethics and work diligently to customize ceremonies to make each couple’s day the way they want it. These JPs take their legal responsibilities seriously.
Loretta Jay, MA
Justice of the Peace Association