A virtual avenue for marriage that sprung up during the pandemic in the state of New York is no more. As of late last month, Zoom weddings are no longer legal. That means if you want to get married, you have to do so in person in the presence of someone authorized to perform the ceremony.
The outlawing of Zoom marriages in the state went largely underreported until the New York Times pointed out this past week. As the outlet stated, this is due to the fact that Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifted the executive order he issued in April of last year which temporarily modified the law to allow people to obtain marriage licenses and hold ceremonies virtually.
A spokesman for the governor’s office has stated that the executive order was intended for a state of disaster emergency, a declaration that allows Cuomo to temporarily suspend or modify any law or regulation to aid or assist in coping with the situation. Cuomo ended New York’s state of disaster emergency effective June 25, citing the region’s progress in dealing with the pandemic.
Shams Tarek, the spokesperson, told the Times in a statement that “the state is not stopping anyone from livestreaming a safe trip to City Hall or your clergy’s office.”
“Get vaccinated, kiss your new spouse and dance the hora if you want—New Yorkers worked hard to get where we are now and we celebrate the return to normalcy every day,” he said.
However, this is notably different from what was allowed before, where the wedding ceremony could be held anywhere, such as in parks, cars, or even hospitals, as long as the couple was in the state. Current New York law requires couples to get married “in the presence of” an authorized officiant.
“No particular form or ceremony is required when a marriage is solemnized as herein provided by a clergyman or magistrate, but the parties must solemnly declare in the presence of a clergyman or magistrate and the attending witness or witnesses that they take each other as husband and wife,” the law states.
Tarek said that new legislation would be required in order for virtual marriages to become legal.
According to the Times, the abrupt change has meant that many couples with virtual wedding ceremonies scheduled after June 25 have had to change their plans. It’s also odd that considering how much technology has changed our lives during this health emergency—with some companies, for example, letting employees work from home permanently—we have taken a digital step back.
This doesn’t mean that we should say goodbye to in-person ceremonies. Some people prefer them! But legislators should reflect on what we’ve learned over the past year and take steps to bring the law into the 21st century.