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Unofficial Opinion 98-5

Unofficial Opinion 98-5

April 21, 1998
To: 

Judge
Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit

Re: 

Marriage ceremonies in Georgia may be performed by any judge, including those from outside the state.

You have requested my opinion as to whether an out-of-state judge may perform a marriage ceremony in the State of Georgia. It is my opinion that such judges may perform marriages in this state.

Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 19-3-30(c) provides authority to perform a marriage ceremony to “any judge, including judges of state and federal courts of record in this state, city recorder, magistrate, minister or other person of any religious society or sect.” In 1997, the General Assembly inserted the language “including judges of state and federal courts of record in this state” to the statute which previously only referred to “any judge.” The 1997 amendment appears to clarify that the power to perform marriage ceremonies is provided to any judge, including but not limited to those in both the state and federal courts.

This office has previously opined that a judge emeritus may perform a marriage ceremony, even in the absence of any such power listed in the Emeritus Act. 1975 Op. Att’y Gen. U75-3. Additionally, we have found that a city recorder could perform a marriage ceremony outside of the city’s limits. 1975 Op. Att’y Gen. U75-96. These opinions are consistent with the conclusion presented herein.

This conclusion is also consistent with 1988 Op. Att’y Gen. U88-22, which opined that marriage ceremonies may not be performed by either clerks of probate court or attorneys appointed pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 15-9-13, but only by those listed in O.C.G.A. § 19-3-30(c). While clerks and appointed attorneys normally could perform all non-judicial acts which otherwise could be performed by the probate judge, the authority to perform a marriage ceremony is not part of a probate court’s jurisdiction but a separate power conferred only by statute for those offices specifically listed.

In interpreting legislation, the court should “apply the plain meaning to all words, except words of art.” Miller v. Georgia Ports Auth., 266 Ga. 586, 587 (1996). Here the statute specifically states, “any judge, including judges of state and federal courts of record in this state.” (Emphasis added.) Given the plain language of the statute and the above cited analysis, it is my opinion that an out-of-state judge also has the authority to perform a marriage ceremony in Georgia.

Prepared by:

REBECCA S. MICK
Assistant Attorney General