Marriage is considered a sacred institution by nearly every civilization in the world’s history. The United States is no exception, and its courts have occasionally become the venue of social discussions on what marriage is to whom. Tennessee is facing one of those moments as the state makes changes regarding who can officiate a marriage.
As of July 1, the Volunteer State will be cracking down on officiants who were ordained online. Internet-based ministries grew out of a fad in the 1960s in which people were recognized as church officials for the purposes of allowing close friends or relatives to sign marriage certificates.
Tennessee’s law never mentioned these ministries. It simply required marriages to be officiated by a person who had been designated by a religious group or organization. The law does state that this designation must be “a considered, deliberate and responsible act.” Some believe that a quick online form and payment do not constitute this act.
This upcoming change in Tennessee law brings the state in line with others like Pennsylvania, which requires marriage officiants to maintain a regular group of parishioners during the period in which they sign marriage certificates. Although the law will most likely not lead to challenges to past marriages’ legality, future marriages using an online officiant may not be recognized.
People who have questions or concerns about the changes in the law would be wise to seek the assistance of a family law attorney. Legal representation is often useful when planning a marriage, writing a prenuptial agreement or dealing with the possibility of divorce.