Q: Are clergy members required to sign marriage licenses?

A: Clergy members generally have the right to decline to officiate any wedding that is inconsistent with their beliefs. However, if a clergyperson chooses to officiate or solemnize a wedding, most states require the officiant to sign the state marriage license in order for the marriage to be recognized by the state.

If a clergyperson wishes to avoid signing a state marriage license, most states will allow this only if the ceremony is strictly a religious service and not held out as a state-sanctioned wedding ceremony. However, the couples taking part in these ceremonies would not be legally married in the eyes of the state until they participated in a ceremony officiated by a judge, justice of the peace, county clerk, or other individual authorized by the state to conduct a wedding and sign a marriage license.

As the law changes in relation to the definition of marriage and the related legal requirements, it will be important for clergy to follow developments and consult with locally-licensed attorneys to determine their rights and duties in relation to this issue.

*Important information: Brotherhood Mutual is pleased to provide Legal Assist as a complimentary resource. The services we offer through Legal Assist are intended to provide general legal information to our current and prospective policyholders.

The information we provide is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. Accordingly, no attorney/client relationship is created through this process, and no legal advice will be provided. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.