Can the President Marry Me?

Slate's Culture Blog
June 6 2011 6:43 PM

Can the President Marry Me?

The following is a guest post by Slate intern Will Oremus.

When Rep. Anthony Weiner married Huma Abedin last year, thewedding was officiated by a man with some sex scandal experience of his own:Bill Clinton. Leaving aside the seemliness of the couple's choice, what gaveClinton a former president of no particular religious stature the authority tomarry the couple? Do former presidents automatically have the power to presideover weddings?

Advertisement

No or at least, they don't in New York. The rules on who canand who can't solemnize a marriage vary from state to state. Weiner and Abedinheld their wedding in Huntington, N.Y., where state law allows certain officials as well as members of the clergy, regardless ofdenomination to perform nuptial ceremonies. Said law explicitly names formermayors of major New York cities, former city clerks, and retired judges amongthose legally empowered to tie knots, but makes no mention of former presidents suggestingthat Clinton would have had to receive some kind of special authorization toperform a legally-binding ceremony. It's unclear exactly what Clinton did toensure that he could marry Weiner and Abedin, but his spokesman at the time assuredthe AP that theformer president's credentials were, well, unimpeachable .

Former presidents are given no special legal privileges inthe Constitution, though some have tried over the years to assert themnonetheless. (President Nixon, for instance, sought to keep the White Housetapes under wraps after leaving office, citing executive privilege.) By custom,former presidents are offered intelligence briefings and security details notafforded to private citizens. But no legal scholar that Slate reached was awareof a statute giving presidents former or sitting the power to performmarriages.

Follow  Brow Beat on Twitter . For more culture coverage, like  Slate  Culture  on Facebook .

Nina Shen Rastogi is a writer and editor, and is also the vice president for content at Figment.

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your children is perfectly legal. 

Ken Burns on Why Teddy Roosevelt Would Never Get Elected in 2014

Cops Briefly Detain Django Unchained Actress Because They Thought She Was a Prostitute

Minimalist Cocktail Posters Make Mixing Drinks a Cinch

How the Apple Watch Will Annoy Us

A glowing screen attached to someone else’s wrist is shinier than all but the blingiest of jewels.

Books

Rainbow Parties and Sex Bracelets

Where teenage sex rumors come from—and why they’re bad for parents and kids.

Books

You Had to Be There

What we can learn from things that used to be funny.

Legendary Critic Greil Marcus Measures and Maps Rock History Through 10 Unlikely Songs

Catfish Creator Nev Schulman’s Book Is Just Like Him: Self-Deluded and Completely Infectious

Behold
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 14 2014 2:37 PM When Abuse Is Not Abuse Don’t expect Adrian Peterson to go to prison. In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM Olive Garden Has Been Committing a Culinary Crime Against Humanity
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 13 2014 8:38 AM “You’re More Than Just a Number” Goucher College goes transcript-free in admissions.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 12 2014 4:05 PM Life as an NFL Wife: “He's the Star. Keep Him Happy.”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 12 2014 5:55 PM “Do You Know What Porn Is?” Conversations with Dahlia Lithwick’s 11-year-old son.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 14 2014 7:10 PM Watch Michael Winslow Perform Every Part of “Whole Lotta Love” With Just His Voice
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 12 2014 3:53 PM We Need to Pass Legislation on Artificial Intelligence Early and Often
  Health & Science
New Scientist
Sept. 14 2014 8:38 AM Scientific Misconduct Should Be a Crime It’s as bad as fraud or theft, only potentially more dangerous.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 12 2014 4:36 PM “There’s No Tolerance for That” Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh say they don’t abide domestic abuse. So why do the Seahawks and 49ers have a combined six players accused of violence against women?