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InsideBayArea.com

 

May 30, 2008

 

By Shaun Bishop

 

 

San Mateo County clerk prepares for gay weddings

 

San Mateo County's online application for a marriage license might not be ready for same-sex couples on June 17, but county Clerk Warren Slocum will be.

 

Slocum got an e-mail Thursday afternoon from the Office of Vital Records giving him the OK to start performing gay marriages two weeks from Tuesday. The office is now taking reservations.

 

His office is one of dozens across the state that is readying itself to comply with the May 15 California Supreme Court ruling that the state constitution gives gay people the right to wed.

 

Some uncertainty still hangs over the process, as groups have petitioned the court to put its ruling on hold until after the November election. Opponents of the ruling say the marriages shouldn't happen until after voters get a chance to weigh in on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

 

But for now, Slocum's office is making the necessary preparations. It has scheduled eight same-sex weddings for the week of June 17, including two on that day, said Carol Marks, director of communications and special projects.

 

The paperwork changes, too. All the references to "bride" and "groom" on the official marriage license and a commemorative certificate that the county gives out will now say "spouse" for both people, Marks said.

 

But the online application for a marriage license, which still asks for bride and groom information, may take longer to update since it's run by an outside software company, Marks said.

 

As for the day itself, "we haven't planned anything special," Marks said, "but I think that the day is special and historic."

 

The county is also taking reservations for its wedding chapel, which holds up to 25 people and can be rented for a 25-minute ceremony at a cost of $35.

 

Slocum said he is prepared to extend the chapel's hours or open it Saturdays if he receives a flood of applications. Typically, the chapel sees four weddings per day.

 

The marriage license costs $78, and the "no refund" policy applies to everybody.

 

On hand to celebrate the day will be the Rev. Terri J. Echelbarger of the Peninsula Metropolitan Community Church, a San Mateo congregation made up primarily of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

 

Echelbarger has asked whether she would be allowed to perform a wedding in the county building, and Marks said the county counsel is researching the request. Either way, she said she will be there to bless any newlyweds who desire it.

 

Echelbarger said her church has been performing same-sex marriages for more than 30 years, though the San Mateo branch was founded only three years ago.

Still, she said, June 17 will be an important day for many couples.

 

"Same-sex families have been waiting for a long time for the legal recognition of their already existing relationships and families," Echelbarger said. "It's an exciting time."

 

For more information, visit www.smcare.org. To reserve a spot at the county chapel, call 650-363-4500.