September 30, 2010 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Bill would allow notaries to perform marriages

Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), chair of the Council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, will preside over the Oct. 14 hearing on the D.C. notary marriage bill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing Oct. 14 on a bill that would authorize notaries to perform marriages in the city.

In a little-noticed development, Council members Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and David Catania (I-At-Large) introduced the Marriage Officiant Amendment Act of 2010 on June 1. Council members Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) signed on as co-sponsors.

Introduction of the notary public marriage bill comes a little more than six months after same-sex marriage became legal in the District of Columbia.

A spokesperson for Cheh, who is the lead introducer, said the bill is intended to give all couples another option for obtaining a civil marriage. Under the city’s current marriage law, civil marriages can only be performed by a judge or by a court-appointed “officiant” that almost always performs marriages at the D.C. Superior Court.

The current law allows clergy members to perform religious marriage ceremonies at places of worship or other locations.

“So by opening it up to notaries it’s giving people another option that requires neither any kind of religious association and you don’t have to go to a courthouse necessarily,” said Melissa Millar, Cheh’s legislative counsel.

Carly Heitz, a spokesperson for the American Society of Notaries, said three other states allow notaries public to perform marriages — Florida, South Carolina and Maine.

Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), chair of the Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, will preside over the Oct. 14 hearing on the D.C. notary marriage bill. Those interested in testifying should contact the committee at 202-724-7808.

Bob Summersgill, a local gay activist who was among those coordinating efforts to pass the same-sex marriage bill, said he plans to testify in favor of the bill.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

1 Comment
  • This bill would also benefite straigts. Any one who is not religious or wants a religiously styed marriage ceremony. Also, the waiting time for a marriage at the courthouse is 9 weeks long ! This option will provide better and more timely options.

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