Margaret Downey - Pennsylvania and California

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Margaret Downey
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Margaret Downey is a recognized Secular Humanist Officiant. After attending Humanist leadership classes at The Humanist Institute and training sessions through the Council for Secular Humanism (CSH), Council Chairman Paul Kurtz certified her to conduct marriages and other secular ceremonies. She regularly conducts weddings in California and Pennsylvania


Marriages in Pennsylvania:

All couples who want to be married in a "guaranteed secular ceremony" through Secular Ceremonies in the state of Pennsylvania must obtain a Self-Uniting Marriage License. Due to misinformation and the lack of training given to marriage license clerks, difficulties have arisen. Margaret Downey is happy to escort all couples in order to guarantee that the proper license is obtained and that clerks will not force the couple into obtaining any license other than the Self-Uniting Marriage License. If a couple attempts to obtain the license on their own, the couple must be prepared for possible difficulties. All secular/atheist couples have the right to obtain a Self-Uniting Marriage Licenses! Do not let an uneducated clerk tell you any differently. By law, you do not have to be a Quaker to obtain a Self-Uniting Marriage License! There may be confusion in due to a lack of education and proper training, but The Pennsylvania Human Relations Department has process several complaints and has promised to intercede should difficulties arise. Remember, you do NOT have to be a Quaker to get the Self-Uniting License and this is the only way that your secular ceremony will be recognized by the state of Pennsylvania.

Marriages in California:

According to California Family Code Section 400, if you want to have a Secular Officiant perform your wedding ceremony, he or she must apply to become a “Deputy Commissioner of Marriages." Doing so would grant Margaret the authority for one day to perform your ceremony. In order to become a deputy commissioner of marriages, Margaret would first obtain the application for appointment issued by the County Clerk.

To complete the application, Margaret will need the following information: date and place of ceremony, the bride and groom's names and mailing addresses. She will need to provide a brief description of why she is seeking deputy commissioner privileges, sign and date the application, then return it to the county clerk. In most counties, a fee must be submitted with the application form. The fee may vary, but $85 is a typical amount. The application must be submitted at least six weeks prior to the ceremony. Read more HERE.

Margaret is committed to secular principles and will guarantee that every event in which she is involved will be non-religious.


Margaret Downey was born into a multicultural family in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Growing up in the highly prejudiced southern society of the 1950s, Margaret became concerned about persecution at an early age. She has devoted her life to ending any and all discrimination against any and all peoples of the world.  

Margaret read literary works of Thomas Paine and Robert G. Ingersoll which enabled her to develop a keen sense of revolutionary thought. She became an openly declared Atheist and activist in her twenties. Free from the constraints of religious dogma and patriarchal systems, Margaret became involved with the feminist movement. She fought for basic rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of choice, personal family leave for working parents, equal pay and promotion opportunities for women.  

Due to concerns with children's health, Margaret was also involved in anti-smoking issues.  Being an activist for such controversial issues nearly cost Margaret her job twenty-five years ago, however, these initiatives are commonplace today. Even as a single mother Margaret was willing to jeopardize her income to demand respect for women, freedom of choice, freedom of expression and freedom from religious intrusion. 

In 1980 Margaret became a businesswoman when she established her own interior design service. This independence enabled her to become more involved in social issues. She is active in maintaining the Jeffersonian wall of church/state separation, freedom from religious intrusion, freedom of choice and death with dignity.   

Margaret founded the Freethought Society (FS) in 1993. FS has taken a strong stand against prayers in public schools, government sponsored invocations, placement of freethought literature in university and public libraries and the avocation of rational thinking. Through city proclamations, Margaret has established “Freethought Week” and “Thomas Paine Day” in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1997, she submitted a proclamation to the city of Philadelphia which subsequently recognized “Privacy Week”