Loose Lips

Marrying, the D.C. Council Way

Should Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry have the power to marry people? Should the newlyweds be able to do it themselves? Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells' legislation to open up marriage officiating in the District earned him questions from two of his colleagues at today's D.C. Council meeting.

Wells' bill, the Marriage Officiant Amendment Act of 2013, would allow anyone to register to perform a single wedding, an option he says would provide options for couples beyond religious ceremonies or courthouse weddings. The temporary registrant's power to perform weddings would expire after that wedding, although they could register again. (Under current law, officiants must be members of the clergy, judges, or justices of the peace; you can register as a member of the clergy to perform a wedding, but it's sometimes complicated.)

Not everyone would have such limited powers, though. The legislation would give permanent officiating abilities to the District's mayor, an addition Wells made at the mayor's request that rankled Barry. If mayors can marry, why not mayors-for-life?

While Barry, like any councilmember, could register to be a temporary officiant under the bill, he wants Wells to allow District lawmakers to marry couples without needing authorization. "Why not have it spelled out in the statute as well as the mayor?" Barry asked.

A spokeswoman for Barry hasn't responded to LL's question about whether he gets many requests to officiate weddings.

Meanwhile, Bowser—who, like Wells, is running for mayor in 2014—was concerned that the legislation would allow couples to officiate their own weddings. With no witnesses, who knows what nuptial shenanigans could go on? "Just seems odd," Bowser said. What seems odd about it, LL wondered? Bowser, presumably still tied up in Council business, didn't immediately get back to him.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • http://www.foresthillsconnection.com/news/needed-a-vision-for-van-ness/ Bob Summersgill

    Marion Barry is just trying to use his office to avoid paying the $25 fee to register as a civil celebrant. Barry just wants another perk of office.

    Bowser just wants to hurt her standing with the gay community, which has been pushing for this legislation for several years.

  • DC=DistrictofCorruption

    This proposal is another patronizing effort by Wells to try and win votes. The primary job of the Council is to create legislation or laws that will promote greater civic cooperation and contribute to the betterment of our city overall, not to appease individual interests or to promote the candidate. With the introduction of the Marriage Act, which extends a number of tangible health and financial benefits to same sex couples, it is important that officials who perform this ceremony understand its importance. To allow anybody to perform this ceremony without the requisite training and commitment will certainly undermine the status and creates a large loophole for fraud. People who used to say they were married "in name only" will likely see this as a reality. If this unnecessary legislation passes, the Family and Civil Courts will be flooded with fraud and breach of contract cases stemming from this legislation. Council members need to think before they act. We've got some real problems that need your attention. Stop campaigning and address the problems that exist and earn your keep.

  • DCIvan

    This is a great idea. My wife and I were married by a family friend in our home town and it was great. The scaremongering above is the politics here. FWIW marriage is a multi-billion $ industry and the more welcoming of all marriage is, the more we will get people married and spending absurd amounts of money here. Not bad if you are a DC small business in the event, catering etc biz.

  • noodlez

    YO TOMMY! WHILE YOU ARE AT IT CAN WE HAVE AN OPEN CONTAINER LAW! I'M SURE THIS IS SOMETHING YOU AND THAT H ST NE ASSWIPE YOU FUNNELED ALL THAT MONEY TO WOULD AGREE ON!

    I'M WITH BOWSER ON THIS ONE!

    HEY BOB S. THE ONLY THING THAT WILL HURT HER WILL BE MAYOR GRAY RUNNING FOR REELECTION. I DON'T THINK SHE HAS A HANKERING FOR THE GAY VOTE.

  • SEis4ME

    @DCIvan, sorry but nobody's buying your "fear tactic." What you and your wife allowed a fellow friend to do is vastly different from what our city leaders should or shouldn't b doing.

    Irrespective how much of a billion-dollar industry it is, the city shoud not be in the business of creating temporary registrants

  • SteveG

    What do Barry, Bowser, and Summersgill have in common? None are married! Why are they so concerned?

  • Blevins

    @SEis4ME: "fear tactic(s)"? As if the comment by DofC is any less of a fear tactic? If nothing else, this idea seems destined to create a lot of nonsense among Ward 9 preachers and some older residents. But "flood(ing) the family and civil courts with fraud and breach of contract cases"? Super funny.

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  • drez

    I'm married and I'm not particularly concerned.
    A person's marriage is a reflection upon themselves, not what others choose to do.

  • SEis4ME

    @Blevins, fortunately I am able to decide which posts I respond to. There are plenty of those where I do not. But if you're primed and ready to do a line-by-line comparison of what peope did or didn't respond to, I bid you Godspeed.

    FWIW, I was less concerned by what I didn't agree w/in DofC's post than the ridiculous idea encouraged by DIvan.

  • Bob Summersgill

    Marion Barry is married, of course. To his 4th wife.

  • Jimbo

    Wells is raising pandering to an art form,

  • Matthew Virgile

    I'm strongly in favor of this bill. My fiance and I will be married in the fall and we would like to have a family member officiate our wedding with legal recognition. Massachusetts and a few other states allow this but DC is much stricter and only allows clergy, judges, or justices of the peace to officiate. To obtain legal recognition under current law we would either have to bring in an officiant who is a stranger to us or else request a separate civil wedding ceremony at the courthouse - also performed by a complete stranger, on a different date, and without family and friends. This is a huge burden for many couples in the District and prevents them from creating a wedding ceremony that is most meaningful to them. This bill offers the perfect win-win solution - letting couples get married by the officiant of their choice and having this be legally recognized by the District.

  • TJ

    In Montana, the happy couple can be married by the flower girl if they wish. And it's complete chaos! (No, actually, it's not.)

  • Smh

    I don't see what all of the opposition is about. No matter who officiates the ceremony, you still need a witness. Not understanding where Bowser is coming from on that.

  • IAmNotALiberalDemocrat

    Tommy Wells is too damn liberal for me and this is why I can't vote or support him in the mayoral race.

  • Stevg

    4th wife? That would be Cora Masters Barry. They got divorced in 2003.

  • Lisa of Petworth

    And I was legally married by signing a paper (the license) with nobody watching us, officiant-free, and mailing it back to the courthouse, or somewhere.

  • Lisa of Petworth

    I meant to say that that was in Colorado.

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