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June 9, 2008


By Michelle Durand



No early weddings for same-sex couples



San Mateo County same-sex couples wanting to tie the knot locally after the ban is lifted must wait until June 17 despite a decision that clerks may begin issuing marriage licenses after the close of business the previous night.

The county clerk’s office is fielding a steady stream of inquiries for licenses and weddings in its chapel but no push to keep the doors open past normal business hours next Monday, said Theresa Rabe, deputy assessor-county clerk-recorder.

“It may be that people now feel they have several months before the November election,” Rabe said.

Even so, the chapel is booked all week although not all couples are gay or lesbian, she said.

On Thursday, the state Department of Public Health’s Office of Vital Records instructed county clerks they may begin issuing licenses at 5:01 p.m. June 16 but didn’t require counties to keep the offices open beyond its usual hours.

The decision was just the latest scheduling change since the state Supreme Court ruled 4-3 on May 15 to allow same-sex marriages. The ruling was set to take effect June 14, a Saturday, but the state pushed it to June 16 to give the court time to consider a request by opponents for a stay until a ballot initiative declaring marriage is between a man and woman is decided in the November election.

The court decided against a stay and county clerks were told to prepare to issue licenses June 17, as the court’s decision becomes final 5 p.m. June 16. The state later decided to allow clerks extended hours Monday so that couples can be married the minute the law changes.

San Mateo County couples who don’t want to wait until Tuesday will need to go elsewhere. Even though they can fill out the paperwork online ahead of time for a marriage license, the document must be picked up, Rabe said.

The office is ready and excited to begin issuing licenses, Rabe said.

The staff has been cross-trained, more computers were brought in and the office is seeing an increased request by people who want to be deputized for the day to preside over the weddings of friends and loved ones.

 Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. 

Obtaining a marriage license:

To apply for a marriage license or make civil ceremony arrangements, go to the County Clerk-Recorder’s Office at 555 County

Government Center, First Floor, Redwood City. Office hours at 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Online application forms are at the Web site but the license must be obtained in person by both parties bearing a government-issued identification.

Couples must be married within 90 days of the license’s issuance anywhere in the state of California. Appointments are not made for licenses and the process may take up to 30 minutes. Marriage licenses cost $78 and civil ceremonies cost $35.

The clerk’s office can be reached at 363-4500 for information and chapel appointments.