Biden tries a new role: Officiating at a same-sex wedding

Vice President Biden recently performed a same-sex marriage ceremony for White House staffers Brian Mosteller and Joe Mahshie.

The wedding, held at the vice president’s official residence, was a joyful occasion and a reminder of how rapidly same-sex marriage has gained acceptance by a majority of Americans (55 percent approve, according to 2016 Pew Research Council polling, compared to 35 percent in 2001).

Biden was asked to preside at the ceremony as a colleague and friend — and possibly because he was an early advocate of same-sex marriage, having publicly endorsed it in 2012.

Biden had never conducted a wedding before, so he had to obtain a temporary certification to do so from a District of Columbia courthouse. After the ceremony, he sent a congratulatory tweet to the couple.

Getting married is one of life’s most important milestones, but how it’s done depends on local customs and laws. In the United States, as elsewhere, marriage laws have evolved to reflect changing societal views.

Same-sex marriage has been legal nationwide since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2015. But in other respects, U.S. marriage laws are determined at the state level.

So who is eligible to marry? Requirements vary slightly from state to state, but typically include reaching the age of consent (usually 18), not being too closely related to your intended spouse, and having sufficient mental capacity to understand what you’re doing. U.S. states require that you be sober at the time of the marriage and not be married to anyone else.

Couples must obtain a marriage license, which authorizes the wedding. Premarital blood tests, once required all across the U.S. to screen for certain diseases or genetic disorders, have largely disappeared. Today, only Montana requires such tests.

After the wedding, the officiant must file a marriage certificate in the appropriate county or city office. Within a few weeks, the newlywed couple receives a copy of the document, which proves the two are legally married.

Biden can’t necessarily officiate at weddings all across the country. The rules vary from state to state. Almost always, any recognized member of the clergy can perform a marriage ceremony. So can a judge, a county clerk or a justice of the peace.

Only some states and the city of Washington allow non-clergy friends or relatives, such as Biden, to officiate. But if he wanted to take up officiating as a new gig after his term ends in early 2017, he surely would be in demand. To date, Biden’s congratulatory tweet has garnered some 170,000 likes.