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May 29, 2008




Calif: Same-sex marriages OK beginning June 17



SAN FRANCISCO—Same sex couples hoping to wed can start making plans to sign their names onto new gender-neutral marriage certificates beginning June 17, barring a stay of the California Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage.


The state Supreme Court has until the day before to decide whether to grant a stay of its May 15 ruling legalizing gay marriage.


The guidelines from Janet McKee, chief of the California office of Vital records, to the state's 58 county clerks also contained copies of new marriage forms that include lines for "Party A" and "Party B" instead of bride and groom.


"Effective June 17, 2008, only the enclosed new forms may be issued for the issuance of marriage licenses in California," the directive reads.


The amended forms also contain a change to accommodate same-sex couples who already have registered as domestic partners, a category created in 2003 that bestowed the legal rights and benefits of marriage to gay men and lesbians without the title.


A group opposed to gay marriage has asked the court to stay its decision until after the November election, when voters are likely to face a ballot initiative that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Passage of the initiative would overrule the Supreme Court.


Under the Supreme Court's regular rules of procedure, justices have until the end of the day June 16 to rule on the stay request, according to the memo sent by e-mail to county clerks. Lawyers involved in the marriage case have said previously the court could grant itself an extra 60 days to consider the stay.


The state directive sent out Wednesday left open the possibility that the legal maneuvering could delay the same-sex marriage implementation date.


"Assuming no legal developments to the contrary, the Department of Public Health will recognize the Court's decision as being in effect beginning June 17, 2008," it reads. "Should the Courts take other action, additional guidance from the State Registrar will be forthcoming."


San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera submitted a brief Wednesday urging the court to refuse the stay request. Gloria Allred, a lawyer for two same-sex couples from Los Angeles, filed a similar document on Tuesday.


"To deny this fundamental constitutional right to same-sex couples based on speculation about what might happen in November would not merely be inappropriate, it would be inhumane," Herrera's filing said.


Meanwhile, a memo from the counsel to New York Gov. David Paterson affirmed the state will recognize gay marriages legally performed elsewhere, although they are not legal in New York.


The directive instructs state agencies, including those governing insurance and health care, to recognize marriages of New Yorkers who are legally wed elsewhere, the governor's spokeswoman, Erin Duggan, said Wednesday.


San Francisco's brief urging a speedy resolution to the debate referenced a poll released Wednesday found that for the first time, about half of California voters support same-sex marriage.


The Field Poll found that 51 percent of respondents backed legalizing same-sex marriage and 42 percent opposed it. A 2006 poll found that 44 percent supported same-sex marriage and 50 percent objected; in 1977, the first year Field posted the question to California voters, only 28 percent were in favor.


The survey of 1,052 registered voters was conducted over the phone from May 17 to May 26 and had a sampling error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.


The poll's findings conflict with a Los Angeles Times/KTLA poll of 705 voters released last week that found 54 percent backed the proposed gay marriage ban and 35 percent opposed it.


California Department of Public Health: