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Farmers market or wedding chapel?

POSTED: March 15, 2009 1:00 a.m.

What can you do in 40 days?

In Noah's day, that was enough time to flood the earth.

In Jesus' day, that was enough time for him to fast and pray.

In our day, it is the amount of time that our state legislature gets to meet.

They are not fasting. Most of them are eating quite well in restaurants that you and I can't afford to frequent regularly.

With the exception of a chaplain who comes to start the day, they are not involved in an ongoing time of prayer. Perhaps, we, the taxpayers should be.

A few days ago, the Georgia House approved a landmark bill. If the Senate agrees and the governor signs it, our top state officials will be able to perform weddings.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you heard right, your insurance, labor or agriculture commissioner could solemnize your wedding vows. The long list of applicable officiants for plighting your matrimonial troth includes the governor, the speaker of the house, the former speaker and every constitutional officer of the state.

This was tacked onto a bill that was to encourage people getting married to be tested for sickle-cell anemia. That certainly fits together.

Think about it. Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond was down at the unemployment office one day and you're there in line with your live-in mate.

"Are you married?" the commissioner asks you. You answer no and he offers to fix that right on the spot. There might be an unemployed piano player or florist nearby and thanks to this new law, you might just put them back to work.

If a terrible storm devastates the neighborhood where you are cohabitating out of wedlock and Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine drives by looking for a TV station to interview him, you could ask him to marry you right there on the spot. Given Oxendine's penchant for getting on post-disaster TV, he might could arrange to have it televised.

The state has a bunch of farmers markets around the state with open-air sheds. They never seem to be completely full. You could put a little steeple on the end of one and turn it into Commissioner Tommy Irvin's House of Homegrown Tomatoes and Home-spun Weddings.

What it takes to marry someone varies from state to state. In South Carolina, one only needs to be a notary public to perform weddings. We have just put the governor of Georgia on the same level as a South Carolina notary.

In Maryland, the two people getting married only need to agree that the person marrying them is some kind of minister. I drove by a church the other day and its slogan on the sign was "every member a minister."

They could either go out and win folks to the Lord or perform weddings in Maryland.

Apparently, the whole issue of who can marry came from the Alabama wedding of former DOT Commissioner Gena Evans and her now husband, former highway board chairman Mike Evans.

They were hoping to be married by Gov. Sonny Perdue, but they had to bring in an Alabama judge to make it official. (At this point in the column, feel free to insert your favorite joke about marrying in Alabama).

Depending on when you read this, there are about 10 days left on the legislative clock. Stay tuned, there's more where this came from.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays.



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