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California gearing up for same-sex marriage licenses

May 17, 2008|Jean-Paul Renaud | Times Staff Writer

Marriage license officials across Southern California scrambled Friday to prepare for an anticipated crush of same-sex couples rushing to the altar now that the Supreme Court has lifted the state's gay marriage ban.

In Los Angeles County, supervisors asked Dean C. Logan, acting registrar-recorder and county clerk, to report back Tuesday on what needs to be done before the order takes effect.

"We want to be prepared and we're going to be prepared," Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said. "We have to comply with the Supreme Court decision."

Logan, whose department issues about 75,000 marriage licenses a year, said "the phone was ringing off the hook" after Thursday's court decision, with couples inquiring about the process.

The scene was similar in San Diego, where couples have shown up for their licenses, and in Orange County, where four couples have filled out applications online.

"Most people do it the same day, but you can set it up in advance," said Jean Pasco, a spokeswoman for the Orange County clerk-recorder.

Officials said it would be at least 30 days before marriage licenses could be issued because the counties need instructions from the state. But as is always the case with high court decisions, opponents could ask the court to rehear the case. And even if the court declined, that could delay the effective date up to 90 days.

Officials at the California office of vital records must revise text in the state's marriage license, which contains the words "bride" and "groom." There may also be a need to devise a more gender-neutral oath that couples must legally take before being married.

But counties are faced with their own challenges. Logan said supervisors in his department have asked him to consider devising procedures for county workers who may be uncomfortable officiating same-sex marriages.

"I would not expect that we would put employees who were uncomfortable in that situation in a position to do that," he said. "It's an issue that we want to be sensitive to. I'm confident that we have sufficient staffing and resources that if that's an issue we can compensate for that."

In San Diego County, where about 26,000 marriage licenses are granted each year, Gregory Smith, the assessor, recorder and county clerk, said clerks with moral or religious objections to same-sex marriage would not be required to officiate at such unions.

On Thursday, justices struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage in a broadly worded decision that would invalidate virtually any law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa immediately hailed the decision, saying he would officiate at as many same-sex weddings as possible.

The mayor stood by leaders of the gay and lesbian community, calling the high court's decision a victory for California.

"It's been a long journey to reach this historic day," he said in the courtyard of L.A.'s Gay and Lesbian Center.

County officials avoided making political statements on the decision Friday, instead focusing on the logistics of complying with the court's order.

Currently, couples wishing to obtain marriage licenses must do so by appointment. County officials said the anticipated rush for appointments may require extending hours at county facilities.

"The office does jump through hoops to accommodate high demand," said Pasco, whose Orange County office issues about 21,000 licenses a year.

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jp.renaud@latimes.com

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Times staff writers Tony Perry,

Maura Dolan and Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report.

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