Anna and Casey Pickett fell in love during a college class on Transcendental literature, reveling in the nature-loving rhapsodies of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
It was only natural, then, that when the couple married last July, they would stand beside a rustic lake in Pennsylvania, with the professor whose class brought them together officiating at the ceremony.
Two months later, however, the couple got a call from a county clerk in Pennsylvania, who told them their marriage might not be valid. And years from now, the clerk said, when they bought a house, applied for government benefits or had children, they might have a problem.
“It was a total shock,” said Anna Ruth Pickett, 27, who works in environmental justice for the New York-based Ford Foundation.
The problem: Their professor, T. Scott McMillen, who was not a minister, got ordained online to perform the ceremony. In September, a judge in York County, Pennsylvania, ruled that ministers who do not have a “regularly established church or congregation” cannot perform marriages under state law.