Virginia recognizes me as clergy!

My reapplication today was successful! The Arlington County Court has officially granted me authorization to perform marriages.

Literata with authorization

The process was not entirely painless. Once again, the person who handles the paperwork – I’m not sure if she’s a secretary or what – asked for my congregation’s physical location. I told her that I had applied before, and that there was some confusion over this, because my group worships in multiple places. She then asked where they could contact me if they had any questions about a marriage license. (Note that she didn’t ask that the first time I applied – if all they had wanted then was my contact information, I would have gladly given it to them.) I indicated that my personal contact information on the letter I had included with my paperwork would be the way to contact me.

She had to go get approval from someone else; she said that the person who wrote the reply to Americans United for Separation of Church and State had to review my new application and paperwork. That took a little while, but she came back and said that it was approved, and then it was a matter of paying the fee, taking an oath to uphold the Constitution and the Constitution of Virginia and to do my duty fairly and impartially, and then I got the official authorization!

I sincerely hope that this means Wiccans and Pagans applying to the Arlington County Court will have less trouble having their authorizations granted in the future. I’m delighted to have my official recognition, of course, but this was never just about me. It’s small steps like this that break new ground along the path to full recognition, where Wicca and other Pagan religions are afforded the full benefit of equal treatment under the law.

For anyone who wants to apply in Arlington in the future, here’s what I took with me: Certificate of Ordination; Letter of good standing (to show that I am “in regular contact” with my religious organization); Certified copies of the articles of incorporation of the Order of the White Moon, the most recent business filing with California showing that the Order is still active; Copies of the letter from the IRS granting OWM its 501(c)3 tax exempt status and the most recent filing with the IRS showing that OWM is still active and exempt; Letters of support from Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, Ivo Dominguez Jr. of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, and Sacred Circle bookstore, attesting to my standing as a priestess and the ministry I do; and a letter of support from a coven sister who also lives in Arlington, because the court insisted that I show “a connection between [my] ministry and the Arlington community.”

My coven sister went with me to support her letter and act as a witness, and my husband also came to be a witness. I cannot thank them enough for taking time out of their busy schedules. Their presence helped tremendously, and I am sure that her letter showing a direct, personal connection to Arlington was a key piece of evidence to meet the court’s standards.

I am also deeply and sincerely grateful to everyone who supported me, especially Selena Fox, Ivo Dominguez, and my sisters in the Order of the White Moon; my thanks also go out to everyone who put energy into resolving this issue and making a positive difference for Pagan civil rights. The personal and magical support I got was amazing, and it made all the difference in the world. Thank you all.

I would like to particularly thank Americans United for Separation of Church and State, especially Ben Hazelwood, who worked with me directly. They sent the letters that showed the Arlington County Court in no uncertain terms that their actions were legally indefensible and got the court to clarify its requirements so that I could make this reapplication successful.

This is not the first time they have gone to bat for Pagan rights, either, as they were intimately involved with Selena Fox and the Lady Liberty League in bringing the Pentacle Quest to a successful conclusion. I strongly encourage all Pagans to support these organizations that are doing the hard work of defending our rights when we need it most.

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About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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40 Responses to Virginia recognizes me as clergy!

  1. mmy says:

    YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    High fives the world.

  2. mamaraby says:

    Yay! And thank goodness for organizations like Americans United, who stand up for the rights of all faiths instead of a certain privileged few! Congratulations!

  3. Congratulations! This is an important victory.

  4. WOW, must have been the county because when I went to Accomack they were as helpful and pleasant, and accomplished it all in less than 20 min.

    • Literata says:

      Exactly – it seems like the county-to-county variation is huge. I insisted on pushing back in Arlington for a number of reasons – among other things, this is where Arlington National Cemetery is, with many of the markers and headstones from the Pentacle Quest. Arlington is learning to respect the rights of living Wiccans as well as the beloved dead.

      • mmy says:

        Thank you for not simply “venue shopping” but fighting the good fight. The world only changes for the better if everyone pushes the little bit they can.

        Huzzah!

  5. *kermit arm flailing*

    So happy for you! Congrats!

  6. hapax says:

    Would you be okay if I linked to this post on my LJ? I’m still “friends” with folks from t’other site, and if you don’t want them coming here, I won’t.

    But this really is “happy dance” news, and I want to share.

    • Literata says:

      That would be wonderful! A lot of people from the ‘verse offered support (you and mmy and Kit most of all!) and I would be happy for them to hear about the positive outcome.

  7. Woohoo! *eggshell confetti and noisemakes*

  8. Shannon says:

    Congrats! That’s great news for everyone. There’s a lot of religious organizations these days that don’t have “proper” buildings, so this is a win for pagans and non-pagans both.

    • Literata says:

      Absolutely – that was one of AU’s arguments and one of the things I feel strongly about too. Honestly, I hope this makes it easier for clergy of any non-traditional religion to get credentialed.

  9. asicho says:

    Oh hooray, hooray! Here via hapax. Wonderful to hear this news. Much rejoicing!

    –Nenya (Slacktiverse)

  10. kitwhitfield says:

    Wonderful news!

    Also, kudos on the outfit – just the right touch of conservatism to make you look like a serious proposition. I know it was the hard work rather than the outfit that did it, but it’s just one more sign of the thought and care you put into this whole important project. :-)

    So now you can marry people! This is brilliant.

    • Literata says:

      Thank you!

      I actually did put thought into looking “normal” enough both times I went to court. No, it’s not fair to be judged on that basis, but I was willing to bend on that matter, especially to get the recognition. If I get that, and they get used to recognizing Wiccan rights, then maybe after that the Wiccan who goes in jeans and a t-shirt, or has lots of visible tattoos, will have an easier time.

      On the other hand, I was joking with my coven sister beforehand that I wanted to tell them, “Darnit, people, can’t you tell this is important? I put on makeup and heels for this!”

      Plus, I wore my cord (which is for us a liturgical garment representing initiation) under the sweater. :)

      • mmy says:

        Or, as my sister said to me after I had dressed for ‘something official,’ “hey, you have grown up clothes!”

        Your choice of clothing does reflect a thoughtful, thought out sense of professionalism and, unfortunately, that has been made necessary by the media presentation of your beliefs as “woo.” It is an uphill fight but just that picture will help to legitimize others.

  11. Mary Kuhner says:

    Woohoo! Congratulations! This is very excellent news.

  12. inquisitiveraven says:

    Congratulations. I’m glad to hear you got it.

  13. Jean Amann says:

    Fantastic! I attended a Wiccan/Catholic/Jewish wedding (it was. . .interesting, but the celebrant and the core of the ceremony were Wiccan, as were the happy couple) in Baltimore last week, and I’m delighted that I could now do the same in Arlington. Thanks for fighting the good fight.

    • Literata says:

      That’s so cool! As someone who was not out of the closet enough to openly integrate my Wiccan practice into my own wedding, I understand the challenges involved, and I would LOVE the opportunity to help others craft something like that which works for them.

  14. Mike Timonin says:

    Yay! And note that Fred has linked you as well.

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  16. Raj Bhosley says:

    o hai, WordPress eated mah comment from last week, so here it is again (more or less):

    YYYYESSSSS!!!! W00T! CONGRATULATIONS, beloved friend and revered Mentor! Namaskar, Guru Literatacharya, and *HUGS*

    Congratulations on two counts:

    1.) Congratulations on your ordination. Many of us don’t need you to have any sort of governmental recognition in order to look to you as a spiritual teacher and guide, but I do understand why such credentials are important.

    2.) Congratulations on winning The Good Fight on this front. You have scored a victory not just for your own beautiful and honorable religion, but for non-mainstream religion in general.

    I am honored to call you my friend and my mentor.

    Oh, and have a happy and blessed Samhain (thanks to Scylla Kat, I know how to pronounce it). moar hugz

  17. I think what many Pagans forget when dealing with apparent discrimination it is all about taking affective action, and accomplishing the goal. It is not about drama, or being a victim, it is about thinking it out, following through by the most effective means. Getting it done without a court fight is even better as a court fight is both expensive and leaves bad feelings against the
    person even when they win. I was reading your later comments on Hail Columbia and I certainly agreeing letting the agency save face is often very wise in such a case. So yo accomplished what you set out to do while ruffling the least amount of feathers. That alone may make it easier when the next Wiccan minister approaches the court clerk. You also illustrated how to prepare by bringing as much supportive paperwork as possible.

  18. Happy Place says:

    Wonderful News … a great step forward. I was married by a woman with Hand fasting, and would loved YOU to officiate our vows. I am thrilled for your accomplishment !

  19. Pingback: Virginia Wiccan wins right to perform weddings | Secular News Daily

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