Granted, this isn't as momentous as the gay-marriage debate, but it's interesting in its own way:
An organization that promotes secular humanism as a moral alternative to belief in God was dealt a setback Friday when a federal judge declined to expand the definition of who is qualified to perform marriage ceremonies.
The Indianapolis-based Center for Inquiry had sued for the right to have members of the group legally recognized as qualified to solemnize marriages and sign marriage certificates.
“If we would declare ourselves a religion, then we could do it,” said Reba Boyd Wooden, executive director for Center for Inquiry Indian, affiliated with the national Amherst, N.Y.-based Center for Inquiry. “But we’re very adamant we’re not a religion.”
Under current law, she said, public officials such as clerks and justices of the peace can perform marriage ceremonies and sign certificates, as can anyone who obtains ordination as clergy. Though almost anyone may obtain ordination via the Internet through various “churches in name only,” Wooden said her group wanted a clear statement that one did not need to be a religious person or government bureaucrat to fill the role of marriage officiant.
Judge Sarah Evans Barker said Indiana laws do not deny equal protection to the nonreligious and found no “history of purposeful unequal treatment” of nonbelievers, Wooden noted.
I saw in a different story that Judge Barker said that this is the type of "accommodation of religious beliefs" meant to be protected by the First Amendment. I had a boss once who had a compeltely different view -- he believed that the way government and religions partner on marriage represented a mingling of government and religion we would not, in fact do not, tolerate under any other circumstance. I'm not sure about that, but it is peculiar that a marriage can be solemnized by any old group that merely calls itself a religion or by any old official from a governor to a dog catcher. The sole criterion for making a marriage "official" is its recognition by the government -- i.e., the simple purchase of a license and payment of a fee. If that obligation is met, who cares how the actual ceremony is performed and by whom?