Legality of Univeral Life Church Marriages

I’m getting married in less than 9 months, and we have decided we do not want some preacher, whom we don’t know, who might go off on a rant about God or Jesus, when neither are particularly important to my fiance and me, so we decided to ask a friend to officiate our wedding.

Our friend is an ordained Minister of the Univeral Life Church (http://www.ulc.org) which, to a lot of people, is practically meaningless. I mean, you can register your dog to be a minister of the ULC, and they won’t care.

Now, several states have laws making ULC ordinations practically meaningless for weddings. For example, Las Vegas STRICTLY regulates who can and cannot perform weddings, which KINDA makes sense, as it’s a for-profit business there.

North Carolina has case law that invalidated ULC marriages.(North Carolina v. Lynch 1981) The Mississippi Supreme Court apparently handed down an opposite decision, but I can’t find the case.

The Tennesee Attorney General said he didn’t believe they were legal marriages, but as far as I know, no case law nor statute validates or invalidates his personal opinion.

I have found no time when it was an issue in Georgia. In the case of Tennesee and North Carolina, there were statutes passed that basically said “All past ULC weddings are now valid.” But it does NOTHING for me now.

My question is…how worried about this should I be? I don’t want some obscure case law in 10 years nullifying our marriage, as per NC v. Lynch, but I want my friend to be our “minister.”

Anyone have any idea on the binding and legal nature of these wedding ordinations, specifically in the State of Georgia, and of case law where courts HAD held that the ULC is a real church, with real ministers, that can perform real ceremonies?

How likely is this to mess up my life down the road? (e.g., if GA outlaws ULC, then we’re not married, which means our taxes for the past so many years can be called into question.)

I need to make sure I’m not making a mistake before it’s too late!

Thanks for any help/info.

Steve

According to the {url=http://www.legis.state.ga.us/cgi-bin/gl_codes_detail.pl?code=19-3-30]Georgia code:

So unless you’re planning on marrying a man your friend should be able to prform the ceremony as long as he is authorized by the ULC to perform marriages. However, were I you, I would ask someone at the courthouse or a lawyer.

Georgia code. I can’t code for shit lately.

Thanks Otto!

I was excited to see your reply.

I DID call the clerk at the courthouse, and she seemed ignorant of the ULC, which made me doubt her opinion.

I figured here I’d get a more informed decision.

But your reccommend to seek a lawyer’s advice is well taken. I’ll call one after the weekend.

Thanks again!

Steve

If you were married for ten years, and then some law was passed that made ULC-officiated marriages illegal, it seems to me that you would still have a common law marriage.

Oops, it seems that I’m wrong. Google and family-law.freeadvice.com say that common law marriages are not valid in Georgia.

Why not have your friend do the ceremony and have a Justice of the Peace do the paperwork to make it official?

If you’re getting married, the general question of whether or not weddings performed by ULC ministers are held valid under a particular state’s law shouldn’t be your focus.

Instead what you should be worried about is (1) whether state law requires that marriage certificates be endorsed by someone who is certified by the state to do so, and, if so (2) getting someone to officiate at your wedding who holds such valid certification.

If your ULC minister doesn’t have a certificate, it’s irrelevant whether, in general, the state recognises ULC marriages or not. You need to find someone who has that certificate.

The key phrase in the Georgia code is this –

If your ULC minister can’t prove that he or she is an authorized person, then get someone else.

No experience particular to Georgia but I’ve dealt with this exact question in two circumstances her in California. Two of my friends were married and the officiant was a ULC minister. No problems so far, they’ve been married a few years, have a nice daughter, no legal problems and no bolts of lightning have struck them down.

Second case, many years ago I sent my postcard to the ULC and got a certificate proclaiming me an ordained minister and authorizing me to perform wedding ceremonies. Two of my friends asked me to preside at their wedding a few years ago so I looked into the laws here in the SF Bay Area.

SF states that you have to get a marriage license down at city hall, the bride and groom have to fill out some paperwork, proof of age/identity, etc. Normal legal stuff.

Then you must have a public ceremony presided over by a “…priest, rabbi or minister of any denomination, at least 18 years old…” (I took this to mean that the officiant is at least 18, not the denomination. Mom was an English teacher). So I presided, wonderful wedding, etc etc.

I also had to turn in the signed/witnessed license to City Hall for them to file. Nobody looked twice, it was just one more piece of paper that goes into The System.

Per the info that Otto provided, it clearly states that the rule in your area is that a “…person of any religious society…authorized…to perform the marriage ceremony…” is Officially OK to do the honors. I think you’re fine and on very stable ground, this is basically the exact same rules we’ve got out here in Wacky Californy.

So go get hitched!

Yes I kept my ULC certificate so I can prove that I’m an “authorized person” if asked.

I should add …

… unless you are interested in the possibility of the legality of your ULC wedding to be a test case in the Georgia courts. If so, then you had better consult a family lawyer who is licensed in your jurisdiction.

Valgard, I also have a certificate from the ULC confirming my status as a minister, but that means nothing in Virginia or in the District of Columbia, where you must apply for a separate certification if you want to officiate at weddings. The District of Columbia will grant such certificates to ULC ministers. The Commonwealth of Virginia won’t.

Actually, the ULC itself keeps a lot of information on its legal status under state laws. It might be profitable for the OP to contact them directly to ask about their experiences in Georgia.

acsenray, Thanks! Everything I’ve read about Marriage laws in Georgia (I did a little research before I posted here :wink: ) states that there is no sepreate certification required by the minister, that would be granted by the state. A call to the county clerk house (and indeed, reading the language that the courthouse expects, available here: http://www.cobbcounty.org/judicial/probate/marriage_lic.htm) tends to verify that, furthermore, Otto’s quote from the statue seems to verify that as well. in this case “Authorized” per you quote, seems to me “authorized by some faith or sect” which seems to indicate the ULC passes muster.

Regarding the ULC’s information, almost EVERYTHING I’ve read from them, says “We’re legal in all 50 states!” whereas other pages I’ve looked into, like this one regarding NC:
http://revkara.com/originalworks/are_you_legally_married.html

Other states, for example, from you post, Virginia, and from other sites I’ve found online, like Ohio, Utah, etc, seem to make it sound like, while the ULC says they’re legal in all 50 states, the ULC’s opinion isn’t really worth anything.

I don’t really understand why it matters WHO marries us…Honestly the paperwork part of it is what the state views as the “contract.” Everything else should be between me, my fiance, and whatever diety we do or don’t blieve in…but I’m treading on IMHO territory, I think.

Anyway, Thanks for the advice!

And thanks, Vangard for sharing your experience.

Steve
P.S. I’m also an ordained ULC minister…Got ordained 3 years ago, and at that time encouraged my buddy to do it to, and he did. At the time, neither ever exected we’d actually USE the things one day! :slight_smile:

Rev, one of our fun dopers could answer this one as I believe he is a Rev from that church.

I am a ULC minister in Texas and recently officiated a wedding for the first time. Some friends of mine wanted to get married without any fuss so they asked me to do it.

Anyway, I told them was a little leery of doing it, but I did some research, and as far as I could tell, it’s only expressly forbidden in New York.

My friends insisted I do the wedding, so I did. They said they got their official marriage certificate back with no problems.

But they’re also going to have a “real” ceremony in a year, with a party and all that, so either way I guess they’re covered.

Another ULC minister here.

IIRC in most states the actual “marriage” is based on a licence granted by the state/county and filed. The state could care less if it was a full 4-5 hour Catholic ceremony or two barks of your ULC ordained dog that comprised the “wedding ceremony”

I would be curious what would happen if anyone really challenged a state that tried to say ULC ministers were not any more or less certified than other religions. How does the state say who is religiously “appropriate” to officiate a wedding?

Read your link, IANAL but I don’t see how something like that would ever survive a SOCAS challenge or religious discrimination on the part of the courts. The article also mentions things like not being able to visit dying ULC married spouses in the hospital and such which is complete BS. Its not like anyone is actually going to ASK if you present yourself as the husband and share a last name. Hell, legally you don’t even have to share a last name.

GA resident and ordained minister checking in (not ULC, but another mail-order outfit):

I have officiated for folks in GA. No problems, questions, challenges. It’s all about the license. They don’t care if you jump over a broom or make dreamcatchers or sacrifice a goat. Sign everything and you’re married.

If your guy punks out on you, gimme a call and I’ll come over in a suit and fill in. It’s a great gig, almost everyone is happy (except the bride’s mom).

:slight_smile:

Big-Ole-Steve wrote

Hey! As Country Dick Montana said (he was a ULC minister, just like you and me), “They don’t take just anybody, you gotta have $25.”

Congratulations!

Although, I believe they’ve waived that now too. You can sign up for free and print your certificate right off the web.