Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Minister Sanctioned for Failure to Follow State Marriage Requirements
Familiarize yourself with state laws regarding marriage.
Arizona
State:

Key point 3-04. All states permit clergy to perform marriage ceremonies. However, some states permit only "ordained" or some other classification of clergy to perform marriage ceremonies. It is important for clergy to determine if they are legally authorized to perform marriages under applicable state law, and in addition to be aware of the legal qualifications for marriage and any license and reporting requirements prescribed by state law.

An Arizona court ruled that a marriage between a man and woman was legally valid despite their failure to record their marriage license as required by state law, and, that the only consequence of this omission was criminal sanctions (a misdemeanor) against the minister who performed the marriage ceremony. An adult male (Dennis) was charged with bigamy, a class five felony. The state offered evidence at trial showing that Dennis married a woman in 1990, and while still married to this wife married a second woman in 2000. Dennis obtained a marriage license on the same day that he married his second wife. They both signed it following a wedding ceremony, as did the minister who officiated at the ceremony and two witnesses. The minister handed the license to Dennis at his request, but Dennis never recorded the license. He insisted that he could not be guilty of bigamy since he never entered into a second marriage due to the fact that the marriage license was not recorded as required by state law. A jury found Dennis guilty of bigamy, sentenced him to three years of supervised probation following a 15-day prison sentence.

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Posted: January 1, 2009
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