Brow Beat

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?

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.

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