Monday, June 9, 2008

Same-sex pairs plan nuptials despite protests, ballot threat

By Jim Staats
Monday June 9, 2008
Click here for the on-line Marin Independent Journal article

AT LEAST 13 SAME-SEX MARRIAGE ceremonies are planned next week at the Marin Civic Center, and officials are preparing for many more that haven't been scheduled.
"We anticipate we'll be a little busy on the 17th," said Marin County Clerk Michael Smith. He said six ceremonies were scheduled Tuesday with seven more later in the week.

"We recognize this is really a significant date with a significant change," he said. "We just don't know what the foot traffic will be. What we want to do is accommodate individuals coming in to pull a license or perform a ceremony. We will work with them to get through that workload."

Smith said his office will have extra staff available Tuesday, the first day county clerks are authorized to begin issuing marriage licenses in response to the California Supreme Court's May 15 ruling reversing a statutory ban on same-sex marriages.

Technically, county clerks can begin issuing same-sex licenses at 5 p.m. Monday, which is when the California Department of Public Health's Office of Vital Records determined that the court ruling takes effect. San Francisco, which had asked the state to begin issuing licenses at the close of business Monday, will start at that time.

However, Smith said the Marin office would wait until Tuesday.

"The directive I have from the state is June 17, so we're going with the 17th," Smith said. "I guess San Francisco wants to be the first, and that's fine. We didn't have anyone request that date anyway." said office hours would be extended Tuesday as needed.

"If there is a line of people, we'll stay open as long as it takes to accommodate them," he said.

Smith said new state-certified marriage licenses referring to "Party A" and "Party B" rather than husband and wife should be back from the printers in time for next week.

Smith and other deputized employees will perform ceremonies.

"I'm supportive of individuals that come together in a caring, committed way," Smith said. "This is an important time for them."

New wedded unions could be fleeting, as an initiative that would outlaw gay marriage in California has qualified for the November ballot. The measure, known as the California Marriage Protection Act, would amend the state constitution to "provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

The start of same-sex marriages next week has sparked movement on both sides of the issue.

The Community Church of Mill Valley, a member of the United Church of Christ denomination, is one of several local parishes offering to perform same-sex weddings.

"We've always offered commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples," said the Rev. Pam Shortridge, noting she was not aware of any couples who had accepted the offer. "Now that (same-sex) marriage has been made legal in the state, it was just the logical next step."

The Rev. Doug Huneke, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Tiburon, said two couples have scheduled same-sex wedding ceremonies at the parish for July and August.

"My hunch is people are ready to move forward despite the uncertainty of this," he said. "I just think it's magnificent. The more of this that can happen, the better in my book."

On Monday morning, Ronald Brock parked his billboard-laden "Marriage Mobile" outside the Marin Civic Center to kick off a 15-county tour of county clerk offices.

The Southern California resident hopes to educate the public on the evils of gay marriage, which he said violates God's moral principle.

"We have judicial tyranny in this nation, and we are called on to resist it," Brock said. "What they are doing is sin, and it is wrong. The laws of this nation are established on God's law."