NH Special Officiants

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The Problem

In New Hampshire, legislators propose allowing amateur wedding officiants. Vermont and Massachusetts have lay-officiant rules that have caused significant problems. Beyond belittling professional JPs and creating loopholes that put vulnerable citizens at risk, town clerks in both states complain that temporary officiants have doubled their workload and jeopardized the validity of marriages. Now with the coronavirus, they increase the risk of community spread, too.

Legislative Activity

2020

A bill to allow special marriage officiants, HB1599, was introduced for the 2020 legislative session; it died in the House. Under guise of the pandemic, at the 11th hour the sponsors then used a backdoor to tack the language onto unrelated (and veto-proof) legislation. It passed without acknowledging its problems. JPus is appealing to Governor Sununu to issue an executive order stopping its implementation.

2019

New Hampshire legislators introduced House Bill HB295-FN-A, an Act establishing a special marriage officiant licensefor the 2019 legislative session. The bill, if it had passed, would have allowed anyone to solemnize a marriage in the state.

  • We submitted written testimony to the NH legislature at various junctures during the 2019 session. Read the testimony.
2017

A similar temporary officiant bill failed to pass in 2017.

What Happened: Behind the Scenes

On behalf of our membership, JPus has worked doggedly to defeat special marriage officiant legislation. Understanding the political moves, many of which are underhanded and hard to swallow, helps appreciate what this fight was about.

Related Links

  • Unfortunately we never had the chance to use our Action Alert  to stop the 2020 bill. That is because constituents were not notified about the amendment.
  • In preparation for 2020, JPus proposed alternative language for the bill that would satisfy all stakeholders.
  • JPus submitted a One-Day Rule white paper to MA Governor Baker’s office that summarizes the problems with temporary officiants in the state. These problems would likely happen in New Hampshire too, if the bill was enacted.
  • Legalizing special marriage officiants jeopardizes the systems that are in place to protect children from coercion into marriage. Read about JPus’ efforts to end child marriage.