Sunday, October 21, 2007


Marriage/Self-Unifying//Legality of some Pa. marriages is questioned/Philadelphia Inquirer/Philadelphia/PA/USA/10-Oct-07/…In addition, couples may have "self-uniting" ceremonies, at which two witnesses take the place of a member of the clergy.

But some interpret the "self-uniting" provision narrowly, saying it was established for faiths that do not use ministers, such as Quakers, Baha'i, and the Amish, so at least one member of the couple must belong to one of those faiths.

So in Bucks County, someone who asks for a self-uniting license is asked about his or her religion. And that, says Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

In fact, the ACLU recently intervened in the case of a Pittsburgh couple who were refused a self-uniting license in Allegheny County - and won.

Reilly said she was aware of the federal ruling but would continue to put limits on self-uniting licenses because she suspects it will be overturned.

"Besides," she said, "my office received complaints from the Quaker membership who felt that people were getting married claiming to be Quakers when in fact they were not," she said.

In Philadelphia, where Ronald R. Donatucci is the register of wills, nothing is changing as a result of Cook's ruling.

The ruling could well be challenged and overturned, said Caren Martin, Donatucci's deputy.

And in Philadelphia, Martin says, self-uniting licenses are issued to those who seek them.

"We don't ask them their religion," she said. ...


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