Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.



January 15, 2015

Suit filed to decriminalize unofficial marriage ceremonies in Michigan


Rev. Neal Patrick Carrick
Neil Patrick Carrick — a poly-friendly family mediator and liberal evangelical minister who believes gay and poly families should have the right to marry — sued the state of Michigan on Monday, seeking to decriminalize ceremonies for unions that do not qualify for a marriage license.

From the Detroit News:


A Detroit minister has sued Michigan in federal court, alleging state law violates his right to religious freedom by barring him from conducting same-sex and polygamous marriages.

..."Churches should have the right to marry who they want to marry," Carrick, 49, said Tuesday. "I've been told by others that 'we would love to marry (gays and lesbians) but we can't because we would be breaking the law.'"

Carrick added: "The state of Michigan does not have the right to tell us what to do in our church."

In his lawsuit, Carrick says the state engages in "the disparate treatment" of gays, lesbians and "plural relationships."

Carrick, a former pastor with the United Church of Christ, says he has declined requests from same-sex couples to marry them because he would have been breaking the law. Under Michigan law, it is a crime punishable by up to a $500 fine for someone who "knowingly" performs a marriage ceremony for same-sex couples.


The whole article (Jan. 13, 2015).

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, on his blog at the Washington Post, had this commentary:


Crime to conduct same-sex or polygamous marriage ceremony?

...I think the Free Speech Clause protects people’s right to conduct same-sex or polygamous marriage ceremonies. A state might well be able to say that such a ceremony has no legal effect.... But if people want to engage in such a verbal ceremony, whether for religious reasons or other personal reasons, that ceremony is generally as constitutionally protected as other verbal ceremonies.

...Now if courts read the statutory phrase “joins any persons in marriage ceremony” as limited to situations in which the officiant purports to create a legal union, for instance by signing a marriage certificate that he understands will be submitted to a government official with the hope that the official will be deceived into accepting it, such a narrowly read statute might be constitutional. But the statute seems broader than that, and a similar Utah statute was read as covering even purely conducting a ceremony, absent any attempt to dupe the government or anyone else....

So I think Rev. Carrick should indeed prevail. Ministers — and others — should be free to conduct verbal ceremonies, even ones that the state may deprive of any legal effect.


The whole article (Jan. 14, 2015).

Carrick has been seeking religious Michigan polyfamilies to join the suit. Facebook page. Here's his press release:


Pastor files Lawsuit against Michigan Governor and Attorney General over the right to perform marriage ceremonies for same sex couples and others that do not meet the qualifications for marriages licenses in the state of Michigan.

Detroit Michigan, January 12, 2015: Lawsuit filed in support of Religious Freedom, and Marriage Equality in Michigan during the week that marks the anniversary of the passage, in 1786, of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. The lawsuit is primary being initiated as a result of the criminalization of wedding ceremonies, and the religious lives of individuals who the state forbids to marry.

Rev. Neil Carrick is the plaintiff in a lawsuit that accuses the state of Michigan of discrimination, criminalizing and stigmatizing families that do not meet the states requirements for marriage including a ban on same sex marriage and plural religious marriages.

The Lawsuit filing in the Michigan Federal Eastern District Court in Detroit and names Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette as Defendants.

Rev. Carrick seeks by this lawsuit to end the state sanctioned criminalization of families who wish to participate in a religious ceremony, live in a religious covenant and be known as a family. Believing that no family should be stigmatized as a result of laws that invade the sacred rites, sacraments, and traditions of their respective Houses of Worship.

Current Michigan law prohibits a minister from performing a Marriage Ceremony unless the individuals meet the statutory requirements. A clergyman can be fined or jailed up to a year for performing a marriage ceremony for individuals not meeting the requirements for a Michigan Marriage License.

Michigan law forbids same sex marriage, plural marriage and other relationships as a result of its marriage laws. This includes a religious ceremonies related to marriage that do not meet the Marriage statues.


Here's his filing.

By a fluke of fate, the judge assigned to hear the case has been open about the fact she is a lesbian with three children. Ironically, this could make the case harder.

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