McNeill: We Must Protect the Sanctity of Unions and Religious Freedom for Pennsylvanians

HARRISBURG, Feb. 24 – State Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-Lehigh, has introduced H.B. 485, legislation that would update who can legally officiate marriages in the commonwealth, effectively ending the question of legality regarding marriages officiated by someone ordained online.

“Marriage is one of the most important steps two people can take in their lives,” said McNeill. “Sadly, under our current law, couples who have their marriages officiated by a minister ordained online face uncertainty.”

According to McNeill, a marriage was declared invalid in York County just a few years ago because it had been officiated by an individual ordained online.

“This is a constitutional issue, a constitutional right,” McNeill said. “No one should be told after years of marriage that their union is no longer legal and/or respected by this state because of the religious organization that officiated their marriage. Freedom of religion is a protected right, one that is paramount to our pursuit of happiness.

“This legislation would make clear that Pennsylvania recognizes the sanctity of unions and the religious rights and freedoms of its residents,” she said. “No longer would the validity of marriage be questioned for a couple who -- of their own right -- and choosing selected a minister ordained online. Any individual of a religious body that is authorized by the rules of that religion to perform a marriage must be able to do so. It’s imperative that we, as those elected and entrusted to do so, work to protect the rights and freedoms of our constituents.”

McNeill added that her legislation reflects Maryland’s current law and is very similar to language included in the marriage laws of other states, such as Hawaii, New Jersey, North Dakota and Oregon.

This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 9.