Dear members of the Tennessee Legislature,
I am writing because effective July 1, 2019, thousands of our Tennessee ministers will be stripped of their right to perform weddings for their friends, family, and neighbors. Over the next few months, thousands of Tennessee weddings will be thrown into confusion, with couples and ministers deprived of the opportunity to build community and create memories together. Furthermore, HB0213 threatens Tennessee’s multi-million-dollar wedding industry, and could send couples elsewhere to find ministers with whom they have a relationship and shared history – their friends and family.
We ask you to correct this legal misstep, and embrace online-ordained ministers as an important part of the state’s spiritual community. With hundreds-of-thousands of happy couples across this great nation joined in matrimony by American Marriage Ministry (AMM) Ministers, the goal of this letter is to communicate to you that our ministers embody what is great about the American spirit, and your state’s values.
When our Ministers are ordained, they enter into a contract with American Marriage Ministries to “act with honesty and integrity, and observe all laws and regulations.” They also commit to “perform their duties conscientiously, investing the time and effort required to create a meaningful wedding ceremony.” Furthermore, we offer extensive online, and published training materials that help our ministers deliver stellar ceremonies. We stand by our ministers, and work tirelessly to ensure that the ceremonies they deliver are up to the highest standards. Now, we ask that your state recognize this fact.
When it comes to wedding planning, couples spend thousands of dollars and countless hours making sure their big day is perfect. Believe me when I say that choosing an officiant is an important part of this process, and not one taken lightly. Respectfully, we believe that it is the couple that is best positioned to make this decision, not lawmakers.
Over the years, millions of Americans have chosen to have their weddings officiated by online-ordained minister, and that number is growing every year. If this was not a viable and meaningful way to get married, millions of Americans would not opt for this choice.
Rather than rejecting this community of sincere and dedicated Americans, we ask that you embrace online-ordained ministers, and add language to Tennessee’s marriage law that eliminates any grey area by stating unequivocally that “all ordained ministers” may perform marriage. It’s really that simple!
Our ministers get ordained online because performing weddings is a deeply spiritual and empowering experience that every person should have the opportunity to experience, should they choose. From ministers that perform one wedding for a close relative, to ministers that officiate weddings every week, thousands of Tennesseans have found meaning and joy in life through this personal calling, and online ordination. We ask you to amend the law to allow your constituents to embrace love and community, and make Tennessee a destination for weddings.
I am available to answer any and all questions that you might have about the service that our ministers render to their communities. I look forward to an open, honest, and constructive dialogue and a resolution that upholds both the rights of our ministers, and the integrity of Tennessee’s marriage laws.
Lewis King, Executive Director, American Marriage Ministries