A federal court in Texas has rejected a lawsuit that aims to allow secular celebrants to perform marriages in that state.
Under Texas law, only members of the clergy and some government officials can perform marriages. The Center for Inquiry (CFI), a secular humanist group and an ally of Americans United, argues that this system is unfair because it grants a special privilege to religious groups that isn't granted to secular ones. CFI sued over the matter, but U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle ruled against the organization Aug. 16.
Boyle asserted in her ruling that "the state has an interest in ... ensuring the respect, solemnity, and gravity of marriage ceremonies." She added that only religious leaders and government officials such as judges can "reasonably be expected" to maintain an appropriate level of decorum.
Nicholas Little, CFI's general counsel, called the ruling in Center for Inquiry, Inc. v. Warren "ridiculous" and vowed to appeal.
"What business is it of the state of Texas what the level of solemnity in your marriage ceremony is?" Little told The Washington Post. "What if you want to get married by an Elvis impersonator? That's not the state's business!"
CFI has pursued similar litigation in other states successfully. Thanks to its lawsuits, secular celebrants can now perform marriages in Indiana and Illinois.
Noah Feldman, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard University, told The Post he believes CFI has a solid argument.
"It's obviously unconstitutional because it gives a benefit to religious groups and denies that same benefit to comparable secular groups," Feldman said. "However--and this is a big...