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