The ACLU of Virginia filed an amicus brief in support of Connor Bleakley and Sami Alsawaf seeking to allow Brandon Bleakley to perform the rites of their wedding ceremony, arguing that the Virginia code sections that govern their choice of officiant is unconstitutional.  

Connor Bleakely and Sami Alsawaf are planning to hold a wedding ceremony on April 29, 2023 in Albemarle County, Virginia. They are not religious, and they do not wish to be married in a religious ceremony.  

Yet the Virginia Code sets out explicitly different rules for people wishing to be married in Virginia based on whether they or their officiant is religious. Three sections of Virginia Code authorize a person to conduct a marriage ceremony: one, Virginia Code § 20-26, governs people who are “members of a religious society having no minister;” another, Virginia Code § 20-23, governs officiants who are “minister(s);” and the third, Virginia Code § 20-25, governs officiants with no religious affiliation. 

These are plainly more stringent requirements than those applied to religious ceremonies under Virginia Code 20-26 and 20-23. The fact that Virginia Code 20-25 sets out a more restrictive set of rules for non-religious wedding ceremonies than religious ones makes it unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Its discrimination against out-of-state wedding celebrants in favor of Virginia citizens also renders the law unconstitutional under the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV of the Constitution. 


Eden Heilman, Matt Callahan


Circuit Court for the City of Richmond


W. Reilly Marchant



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