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Bay Area Reporter


June 12, 2008


by Cynthia Laird



Counties ready for gay nuptials



Across the state, county clerks are readying for Tuesday, June 17, when same-sex couples can obtain marriage licenses and get married. In most cases, counties also offer civil wedding ceremonies, and are accepting appointments.


In San Francisco, partners Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, who have been together more than 50 years, are to be married in a private ceremony officiated by Mayor Gavin Newsom on Monday, June 16 just after 5 p.m. in City Hall. Although it had been reported elsewhere that the clerk's office would start performing marriages for other same-sex couples on Monday, mayoral spokeswoman Giselle Barry told the Bay Area Reporter this week that Monday would be limited to Lyon and Martin, who will be the first same-sex couple married in San Francisco. The two icons also were the first to be married during the Winter of Love in 2004.


"All other license granting and marriage ceremonies will begin at 8 a.m. on the 17th," Barry said in an e-mail.


According to the San Francisco clerk's Web site, appointments are required for a marriage license. Appointments are also required for a civil marriage ceremony through the clerk's office.


Up north, however, same-sex couples will be able to get married Monday after 5 p.m. in Sonoma County. A clerk's office spokeswoman told the B.A.R. last week that the office would be open until 8 p.m. that day. Couples also can get married Monday in Yolo County, a spokeswoman for Clerk Freddie Oakley said the office would be open until 8 p.m.; an appointment is required for a ceremony. Oakley, an evangelical Christian who supports marriage equality, made news in recent years with her "Certificate of Inequality" that she handed out to same-sex couples when they would try to obtain marriage licenses on Valentine's Day.


While all 58 California counties are expected to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning Tuesday, in accordance with the state Supreme Court's May 15 ruling that overturned the prohibition on gay marriage, a handful have indicated they will no longer offer civil wedding ceremonies to any couples – gay or straight – or do not currently provide civil marriage ceremonies. Counties are not required by law to provide civil ceremonies. [To see chart, click "California County Wedding Information" button at left.]


In Kern County, Ann Barnett, the county auditor-controller-clerk, issued a statement last week indicating her office would cease offering civil ceremonies.


According to a series of reports in the Bakersfield Californian, Barnett went to great lengths to get out of same-sex ceremonies, which resulted in the cancellation of 25 heterosexual wedding ceremonies that had been scheduled after June 13, the last day such ceremonies will be offered by the office. A spokeswoman at the office issued a terse confirmation to the B.A.R. that in fact, no civil weddings would be performed by the clerk's office after Friday. Marriage licenses for same-sex couples will be available Tuesday with an appointment.


In Butte County, Rosemary Dickson, assistant county clerk-recorder, told the B.A.R. Tuesday, June 10 that her office will not offer civil ceremonies. While the clerk's Web site indicates civil marriage ceremonies are performed and appointments are accepted, Dickson said that would be changed. She cited budget cutbacks for the decision to scrap the civil ceremonies, which she said was made in February.


Interestingly, a report this week by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law stated that same-sex weddings could create hundreds of new jobs and result in a financial boon to the state.


In Merced County in the Central Valley, county Clerk M. Stephen Jones had issued a statement last week that indicated he would not preside over civil ceremonies, according to the Associated Press. He had cited a lack of space. However, the clerk's Web site promotes a "wedding facility" that has been recently renovated.


On Monday, Jones told the B.A.R. that his office would perform ceremonies on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, which is what has been offered to opposite-sex couples and is what is posted on the Web site. The wedding room, he said, can accommodate about 15 people. Other clerks have already taken appointments for same-sex weddings. In Shasta County, Clerk Cathy Darling said two appointments had been made. In Santa Cruz, about 40 couples have already signed up; the clerk's office will remain open until 8 p.m. Tuesday, a spokeswoman said. Lake County already has a waiting list and people should call after Tuesday, a spokeswoman said.


In San Mateo County, spokeswoman Theresa Rabe said that licenses will be issued starting Tuesday; no appointment is necessary. The county does offer civil ceremonies, which require an appointment.


Across the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin County Clerk Michael Smith was enthusiastic about the upcoming nuptials.


"We'll work hard to accommodate walk-ins," Smith said last Friday, after officiating the marriage of a heterosexual couple. "Welcome to all."


In Napa County, Clerk John Tuteur said that his office already has a couple of appointments scheduled for Tuesday.


In the East Bay, Kevin Hing, chief of the Alameda County Recorder's office, told the B.A.R. Wednesday that his office would be open Monday, June 16, from 5:01 to 8 p.m. to issue marriage licenses. Hing said that there were 20 appointments for Tuesday already, and that the office expects walk-ins.


Stephen Weir, the openly gay clerk-recorder in Contra Costa County, told the B.A.R. that he expects to marry his partner first thing Tuesday morning, in a park across the street from his office.


San Bernardino County has also seen same-sex couples already make appointments, a spokeswoman said, and the clerk's office is prepared for walk-ins.

Fresno County clerk's office spokesman Jose Gomez said that marriage licenses would be issued to same-sex couples beginning Tuesday, and that civil ceremonies are performed on a first come, first served basis. The office has a small room for the civil ceremonies.


Some county clerk Web sites have "bride" and "groom" listed in the information about obtaining marriage licenses. Kathleen Moran in Colusa County said that her site would be updated. Terry Hansen in the Yuba County Clerk's office also said their site likely would be updated soon.


Marriage Equality USA has a "Getting Married" tool kit at Equality California has an online wedding registry where people can donate to fight the anti-gay marriage amendment on the November ballot; visit For information on San Francisco, visit the clerk's Web site at