A wedding celebrant in Western Australia, Diane Caratozzolo-Waddington, could be struck off the registrar for failing to get an “I do” from a terminally ill and unconscious bride. The President of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants, Anthony Burke, says he has never heard of anything like this before.
The West Australian reported that Diane Caratozzolo-Waddington pleaded guilty in the Rockingham Magistrates Court last month to purporting to solemnize a marriage in October, 2015. The marriage occurred in 2015: it involved a Rockingham man and his wife who was in the hospital dying from cancer.
The problem is that the woman, who was in the final stages of the disease, was in a coma at the time of the marriage and was not awake for any part of the service. She died soon after the ceremony.
In Western Australia, there are various legal requirements to getting married, including freely consenting to becoming husband and wife, understanding what that means, and using specific words such as “I do” – none of which an unconscious person can do. This brings the marriage into doubt.
The court heard evidence that Diane Caratozzolo-Waddington was heard to say during the ceremony, “Oh, she can’t answer, but I know she wanted to get married when I saw her before.” Then, to make matters worse, the groom signed the woman’s signature himself.
Ms. Caratozzolo-Waddington now faces being struck off the Commonwealth Registrar of Marriage Celebrants by the Attorney-General’s Department.
Speaking to ABC radio, Mr. Burke said he had never heard of such a case before and while there were “gray areas,” he added, “We are governed by the law and that’s what we need to uphold.”
“I have made contact with her: I don’t have all the facts, it was more that I wanted to touch base with Diane just to offer support and let her know her Association’s there if she needed anything.”
On average, there are 120,000 weddings performed every year in Australia, with more than 60 percent of couples choosing to have the service performed by a civil celebrant.
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