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Minister Sanctioned for Failure to Follow State Marriage Requirements

Familiarize yourself with state laws regarding marriage.


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, ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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  • January 1, 2009