Wedding officiants consider Supreme Court marriage ruling

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, July 1, 2015

NATCHEZ — Over the course of 24 years, Adams County Justice Court Judge Charlie Vess has married approximately 1,000 couples.

All of those marriage ceremonies, he said, ended with one classic line — “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

That line may soon change, though.

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“I’m going to have to have a second script now,” Vess said, referring to last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide.

Vess said “the law is the law,” and if a same-sex couple obtains a marriage license in Adams County, then he will perform the ceremony.

Marriage licenses for same-sex couples in Natchez and Adams County became available Monday.

Adams County Supervisor Darryl Grennell said he has only had one same-sex couple voice interest in a marriage ceremony.

“I think this was a great ruling,” Grennell said.

Like Vess, Grennell said he has never performed a same-sex marriage.

“If it’s legal, I’m going to do it. It’s just the right thing to do,” Grennell said. “I’ve done about a dozen weddings for black, white, young and old. I think this is long overdue.”

And although same-sex marriages are now legal, Vess said his moral belief on marriage still stands — despite the law.

“I still stand by the traditional view of marriage,” Vess said. “I’m a Christian, and I believe a marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

However, from a civil standpoint, Vess said he believes same-sex couples should enjoy the same benefits as any other married couple.

“I don’t do religious ceremonies, I do civil unions,” he said. “And I think same-sex couples should get the benefits of a civil union.”

Vess hasn’t had any marriage inquiries from same-sex couples yet, but he said he expects to soon.

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said he hopes same-sex couples feel welcome to wed in Natchez, and he believes the ruling will only add to the city’s appeal as a wedding destination.

“In my opinion, Natchez is unique in that it has a large (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) population who are active and contribute to the community,” Brown said. “This (ruling) can’t do anything but increase our wedding destination numbers. It is what it is — the law of the land.”

In Mississippi, clergy, local board of supervisors and judges can perform wedding ceremonies.