Temporary marriage officiants – Judiciary hearing on Wednesday
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 13, 2019, Fairfield, CT. The New Hampshire House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee is holding a public hearing on Wednesday to temporarily authorize anyone to solemnize a marriage in the state.
New Hampshire has the benefit of learning from its neighbors to the south. Massachusetts has a lay-officiant rule that has caused significant problems. Beyond belittling professional JPs, it has doubled the workload for municipal clerks and created chaos for couples whose marriages were invalid. The Justice of the Peace Association submitted a white paper to MA Governor Charlie Baker’s office last week addressing the significant problems with its One-Day Solemnizer designation.
The Governor appoints Justices of the Peace to perform marriages and process the legal documentation, along with oaths, depositions and other duties requiring an impartial witness. The pending bill, An Act establishing a special marriage officiant license (HB295-FN-A), was raised last year, but didn’t pass. “Pursuing this legislation is unwise,” says Loretta Jay, managing member of The Justice of the Peace Association, a professional organization for marriage officiants. “JPus surveyed Massachusetts town clerks last year and found that up to 90% of lay officiants made serious legal errors. It is a major headache for their offices – and couples suffer the consequence of an invalid marriage.”
Most people think when the officiant says “I now pronounce you…” is the most important part of the marriage. But in reality witnessing the couple’s affirmation and accurately and timely processing the legal paperwork is what we rely upon for this official act. Marriage is a legally binding relationship with significant implications. Health insurance, immigration and citizenship, taxes and home ownership, parenthood, retirement and inheritance may all be contingent upon it. Jay continued, “We can assume that amateur officiants in New Hampshire would make the same mistakes that those in Massachusetts do. If so, the result will be an unfunded mandate for the state’s municipalities, as the town clerks’ try to rectify the inevitable errors.”
The Justice of the Peace Association (JPus) represents secular marriage officiants from New Hampshire and other New England states. The professional membership association connects members with couples, sets professional standards and represents membership in public discourse. Its goal is to support secular marriage officiants with the performance of their duties. More information about JPus can be found at www.JPus.org. Couples can find their perfect marriage officiant at www.findaJP.com, the place for couples who click!