On May 4, U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of Atheists for Human Rights as moot. The suit was filed when a marriage officiant certified by AFHR had their filing of that certificate rejected by Washington County on the basis that atheists were not among the groups authorized as marriage officiants under Minnesota law. Ericksen dismissed the suit when Washington County reversed its decision and declared it should have accepted AFHR’s certificate at the start.
Washington County’s decision is being lauded as a victory and a step forward for atheist marriage officiants. However, while this is an unequivocal victory, it is a victory for the status quo. It isn’t progress. Understanding the difference takes some background, both on the current situation for atheist marriage officiants and on what AFHR hoped to accomplish with their lawsuit. It also helps to be familiar with the judge’s order.
If you’ve followed me as a writer or Minnesota Atheists as a group, you’ll know that we aim to change the law on marriage officiants. We’ve been working with state legislators to come up with acceptable language that would allow atheist and secular humanist nonprofits to certify their own trained marriage officiants and see the state recognize marriages performed by these officiants as legal.
While we’ve been going through this process, AFHR has taken a different tack. [Read more…]