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The Daily Journal


May 27, 2008


By Lisa Leff



Gay weddings may come June 14


SAN FRANCISCO — Same-sex couples in some counties will be able to marry as soon as Saturday, June 14, the president of the California’s county clerks association said Monday.


Stephen Weir, who heads the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials, said he was told by the Office of Vital Records that clerks would be authorized to hand out marriage licenses as soon as that date — exactly 30 days after the California Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage should be legal.


The court’s decisions typically take effect after 30 days, barring further legal action.


“They are shooting for the 14th,” said Weir, adding that the state planned to give California’s 58 counties advice early this week for implementing the historic change so local officials can start planning.


An effort, however, is under way to stay the Supreme Court’s decision until voters can decide the issue with an initiative planned for the November ballot. The measure would overrule the justices’ decision and amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage.


Justices have until the ruling’s effective date to weigh the request, but could give themselves longer to consider it, attorneys have said. Another complicating factor is that the Supreme Court also directed a midlevel appeals court that upheld the state’s one man-one woman marriage laws a year ago to issue a new order legalizing same-sex marriage, and it’s not clear when the appeals court would comply.


Suanne Buggy, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Public Health, which oversees the vital records office, would not confirm Monday that state officials have settled the matter of when counties can or must start extending marriage licenses to same-sex couples.


“We will be getting guidance out to the counties soon,” Buggy said.


According to Weir, it would be up to each county clerk to decide whether to open their offices to gay and lesbian couples on June 14 or to wait until the following Monday.


Some clerks have said they would aim to accommodate on the earliest possible date, depending on their staffing and anticipated demand, he said. If the court’s decision does take effect on June 14, couples could, in theory, plan to obtain their licenses and take their vows at 12:01 a.m. that day, he said.


As it happens, Weir’s office in Martinez already holds open hours on the second Saturday of each month, so serving couples who want to get hitched as soon as possible won’t be a problem, he said. He and his partner of 18 years hope to be the first ones to tie the knot.


“Just because we have been so close to it, and so far, I would really like to be first,” Weir said.


County clerks spoke with state officials last week about how to amend marriage license and related forms to eliminate references to “bride” and “groom,” according to Weir. Because each county must use the same forms, the vital records is expected to notify them this week of which gender-neutral wording to use, he said.