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Issues that affect ministers and churches
Legal Marriage Requirements
Couples united in "religious ceremonies" are not lawfully married.
Florida
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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.

A Florida court ruled that a couple that was "married" in a religious ceremony that did not comply with the requirements for a valid marriage specified in state law was not lawfully married. A couple participated in a religious marriage ceremony in Oregon, and later relocated to Florida. They never applied for or obtained a government issued marriage license. They also never paid a government fee to get civilly married, never supplied their vital statistics to the government, never received a marriage certificate, and never recorded their marriage in Oregon's public records, which are all required by Oregon law. A few years later, in a child support and custody proceeding, the husband claimed that no lawful marriage had ever occurred. The wife disagreed. She conceded that as a general rule a marriage license is required in Oregon for a lawful marriage to occur. However, she relied on the following "savings clause" in the Oregon marriage statute to validate the marriage:

All marriages, to which there are no legal impediments, solemnized before or in any religious organization or congregation according to the established ritual or form commonly practiced therein, are valid. In such case, the person presiding or officiating in the religious organization or congregation shall deliver to the county clerk who issued the marriage license the application, license and record of marriage in accordance with [the marriage statute].

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