Clerks expect flood of marriage licenses

May 16, 2008 6:39:45 PM PDT
County clerks throughout the Bay Area are gearing up for a flood of marriage license applications, after the State Supreme Court's ruling allowing same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage is about to become legal in California. But before you rush to the altar: beware. The devil's in the details that weren't spelled out in the decision from the state supreme court.

The court's ruling, while historic, is also complicated. There may be un-intended consequences for gay couples planning to get married.

The first thing that everyone needs to remember is that there is a 30-day waiting period, which is just standard ruling of this kind.

That doesn't mean that you can't plan and many people are.

The San Francisco county clerk's office says it will be adding staff to deal with it expects will be a wedding rush, starting in about 30 days, June 14th.

"Many of the staff here were here in 2004 and they're like, okay, here we go again," said San Francisco clerk Karen Hong.

Same-sex couples cannot yet get a marriage license, but they can make an appointment for one. The San Francisco clerk says on June 16, the first weekday after the 30 days, 43 same-sex couples have appointments for licenses and most of the 28 ceremonies scheduled for that day are also same-sex couples.

Contra Costa county clerk Steve Weir says his office is always open every second Saturday of the month, which coincidentally is June 14. He will be among those getting married, but he says he has some questions, like whether his domestic partnership has to be terminated first.

"There are some issues that need to be dealt with, and I'm thinking about that right now," said Weir.

But ABC7 Legal Consultant Dean Johnson says he believes domestic partnerships will not have to be terminated first.

"In family law code section 298.5, it indicates that someone who is a domestic partnership cannot enter into a civil marriage with someone other their domestic partner. My implications I think that the law is saying that you can in fact marry your domestic partner," said Johnson.

There's also the question of what might happen with a state's ballot initiative against gay marriage that could be before voters in November.

People ABC7 News talked to in San Francisco's Castro District said they're still more happy than worried, but they are talking about the November "what-if's."

"Thousands of marriages all over California are they all negated?" said Tom Struble from San Francisco.

Johnson also weighed in on that question, and he said if and that is a big if that measure ends up on the ballot, Johnson believes in his understanding of the law is that all the marriages between June and then withstand. From then going forward, that would not be possible.


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