One of the most significant legal changes for the Buddhist clergy in the wake of the Meiji Restoration was the decriminalization of clerical meat eating and marriage (nikujiki saitai). The end to state enforcement of the prohibition against marriage by the Buddhist clergy sparked a prolonged debate over that practice within the Buddhist world. This article examines the range of responses to the decriminalization measure by the Soto clergy and traces the spread of clerical marriage within the Soto denomination. Despite ongoing resistance to clerical marriage from the denomination’s leadership, the majority of Soto clerics eventually married, forcing many institutional adaptations. The de facto acceptance of clerical marriage, however, failed to resolve the fundamental doctrinal issues concerning that practice, which remains problematic for some Soto clerics today.