Thursday, April 30, 2015

Research Q of the Week: Mayors and Matrimony (4/30)

Question: Can our mayor legally marry people? I mean, people who aren’t marrying the mayor herself?

Answer: Once in a while word gets around that some mayor, somewhere officiated at a wedding. In all likelihood, that couple is now in all ways securely hitched, but not because of a power of the office of mayor.

Under state law, civil marriage (the only kind the state acknowledges) may be “solemnized” by only particular people. Most of them are judges. Or retired judges. Or court administrators. Or former court administrators. Also retired court administrators. Anyway, a lot of them just chose the right job to help couples say “I do.” Legislation has appeared in recent years to add mayors to the mix, but it hasn't gotten very far. Cold feet, perhaps. The League remains neutral on the topic.

Then there are the religious folks who can solemnize. For the most part, any licensed or ordained minister of any religious denomination may solemnize a civil marriage. The standard for being a minister is, at a minimum, having proof of authority from the minister’s “spiritual assembly.” We don’t know who is or isn’t a spiritual assembly, but there are some organizations whose spiritual assembly will fully instill solemnization authority upon anyone devoted enough to click a few internet links.

So, can the mayor marry couples by virtue of their office? No. But if they or anyone else Googles “how to get ordained,” it’ll be ding-dong, the bells are gonna chime in no time.

Written by Edward Cadman, special counsel with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: ecadman@lmc.org or (651) 281-1229.
This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information. 

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