MANDAN, N.D. — Justin and Anna Neis believe Justin's late grandmother had a hand from heaven in making sure their wedding happened.
The Rev. Bruce Adams was the pastor at Justin's grandmother's church in Edgeley. Adams agreed to officiate the July 13 ceremony at Mandan United Methodist Church.
"My grandmother up in heaven was happy because I was married by her pastor," Justin Neis said.
Justin Neis, 33, has cerebral palsy and requires a wheelchair and Anna Neis, 42, has an intellectual disability. His parents and guardians, Jim and Jonella, agreed the marriage was good for the couple.
Tribune readers first learned about them last May, after their wedding plans were put on hold by a priest at Spirit of Life Catholic Church in Mandan.
Justin Neis was a lifelong member of the parish. But the Rev. Chris Kadrmas was unwilling to perform the ceremony, citing church doctrine that both the bride and the groom must have "unfettered freedom to choose" to consent to marriage.
Kadrmas suggested Justin live in a group home for six months to a year instead of living with his brother in a basement apartment at their parents' Mandan home. Both families were dismayed and angered.
"The pastor at Spirit of Life said we had to wait two more years," Justin Neis said. "I walked out and left the church. I'm not a member there anymore."
Now, the two are adjusting to married life and and still renting his parents' basement apartment. In September, Justin's twin brother, Jason, moved to an apartment in Bismarck. The brothers had never lived apart.
Anna Neis said it felt strange saying the words "my husband" at first. And some things have not been so easy, like learning each other's work schedules, and just sharing life with another person.
Justin needs a care provider to assist him, but he and Anna are typical newlyweds.
They play footsie, tickle one another, hold hands, help and care for one another and sneak kisses.
"After work, we will watch TV or listen to the radio, but sometimes we just tickle each other and make each other laugh," Anna said.