Nevada requires individuals who perform marriages to be affiliated with a religious organization (NRS 122.062 and NRS 122.064). The people who do not have to be affiliated with a religion in order to perform marriages are certain government officials, including judges and justices of the peace, but they are limited in the number of marriages they can perform each year.
The ACLU of Nevada believes that the requirement that an individual be affiliated with a religious organization to perform a marriage is a statutorily-mandated religious test that violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment unequivocally states that “ Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” We also believe that the statutes violate the Equal Protection of the Fourteenth Amendment, because it grants religious individuals the right to perform marriages while denying that same right to non-religious individuals.
On March 27, 2011, the ACLU of Nevada filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of this religious-affiliation requirement. Our suit is against Clark County, the Clark County Clerk, the Clark District Attorney, and the Nevada Attorney General.
The ACLU of Nevada represents five plaintiffs in the case. Two plaintiffs, Raul Martinez and Michael Jacobson, are members of the Humanist Society and wish to perform marriages. They were denied a license because the Humanist Society is a secular organization and they did not wish to be associated with any religion. Our third plaintiff, Paula Newman, is a notary public who wanted to apply for a license to perform marriages but did not because she knew she would be refused since she is unaffiliated with any religious organization or entity . Notaries are licensed to administer oaths and affirmations among other official acts, but are not allowed to perform marriages in Nevada. Our final two plaintiffs, Claire Lichtenstein and Wesley Wertz, wish to be married, but they are unable to find someone who is not affiliated with a religion to perform their marriage.