Online officiants are individuals who secure permission to solemnize marriages through the auspices of a religious organization, most often the Universal Life Church (ULC). Typically, they are lay people who fill out a form online so they can marry their friend or family member. Some use the authorization to circumvent JP rules which limit the number of civil officiants per town. There are no regulations or oversight to ensure compliance with state laws. Oftentimes the ULC ministers treat the legal act of marrying couples as frivolously as the ULC distributes certifications, invalidating marriages.
Massachusetts’ One-Day Solemnizers
The biggest complaint we hear from Massachusetts JPs is about the One-Day Solemnizer rule. As professionals, JPs feel unappreciated and disrespected to have a lay person do the job that they train for and were appointed to do. Read about our work researching these problems and working with lawmakers to come up with a solution.
New Hampshire’s Special Marriage Officiant
JPus successfully led the charge opposing 2019’s act establishing a special marriage officiant license (House Bill 295-FN-A.) If this bill had passed, it would have temporarily authorized an individual to solemnize a marriage in the state. Now, in 2020, another bill is submitted. Again, we’re opposed, and making our voice heard. Read about JPus’ NH special marriage officiant activity.
Connecticut’s JP for a Day
In March 2018 a bill was introduced to the Connecticut General Assembly’s (CGA) that pushed for a JP for a Day. As a result, JPus took action – and successfully squashed the bill.
Vermont Temporary Wedding Officiants
In Vermont, temporary wedding officiants were first introduced in 2008. The Secretary of State’s office reports that the number of temporary officiants has increased steadily (by 59%) over the past five years. Because their application switched to electronic in December 2018, it is anticipated that this rate will continue or even increase.
JPus is building relationships with key stakeholders in Vermont to better understand how they are affected by this law. So far, we’ve learned that Vermont town clerks have similar complaints to those of Massachusetts. Concerns include the risk of invalid marriages and a higher burden on the municipalities (clerks’ offices) to manage the problems. Similarly, Justices of the Peace in Vermont are also unhappy with how temporary officiants have affected them. We hear reports of couples engaging JPs for their services (including customized vows), and then canceling last-minute. Specifically, they say that their friend or family member will do the ceremony instead. Of course, this leaves a bitter taste.