This Valentine's Day, can Justice Kennedy preside over your wedding?

He could, but probably wouldn't (although he attended White House party crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi's wedding). But he might help you say 'I do' if you're a close personal friend or served as one of his law clerks.

Wason Wanichakorn/AP
Bride Rattanaporn Supha, left, and groom Nitiphong Jittahorg of Thailand suspended on sling wires during a ceremony, known as a "flying wedding," as part of Valentine's Day celebrations in Prachinburi, Thailand, Saturday. As far as we know, Justice Anthony Kennedy did not officiate.

Supreme court justices have the power to remake America’s laws. Their role is enshrined in the Constitution, and they are appointed for life.

Yes, yes, we know that. But in this, the season of Valentine’s Day romance, we have a question concerning a separate power. Can they preside over weddings?

Stories about White House party crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi have noted that Justice Anthony Kennedy spoke at their 2003 wedding, for instance. He was there as a friend of the family and didn’t officiate, but could he have stepped in to steer the ceremony to a successful landing if the clergy running it had become indisposed?

If Justice Kennedy had done that, would the Salahis be extra married – more so than if they had been joined in matrimony by a simple justice of the peace?

“No” is the answer to that last point. But it turns out that Supreme Court justices can marry people, in most states. And they do it, too, more than you might think.

Notably, Justice Clarence Thomas officiated at Rush Limbaugh’s third wedding, in 1994, to aerobics instructor Marta Fitzgerald. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did the honors at then-Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan’s 1983 marriage to broadcast journalist Andrea Mitchell.

You can’t just book Chief Justice John Roberts as if he were a Shriners Hall, however. The Supreme Court is picky about many things, including whom they join ’til death do they part.

Three categories stand out:

Law clerks. The best way to gain the social cachet of a Supreme Court wedding connection is to become engaged to a lawyer who works for one of the justices or to be one of their law clerks yourself. In October, the newest Supreme, Sonia Sotomayor, presided over the wedding of her former clerk Danielle Feldman Tarantolo, in an anteroom of a court dining area, for instance.

Friends from the ’hood. Justices will also help out families who knew them when. Ex-Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, born in El Paso, Texas, last year presided over the marriage of the Texas state senator from that area, Eliot Shapleigh.

Nina Totenberg. Justice Ginsburg presided over the 2000 wedding of longtime National Public Radio Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg to Washington surgeon H. David Reines. Ms. Totenberg and Ginsburg are old friends, dating from Ginsburg’s days as a Rutgers law professor.


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