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Gay pairs won't
leave California clerk's office empty-handed

Gay pairs won't
leave California clerk's office empty-handed

Every February 14--Valentine's Day--gay men and lesbians throughout the United States hold Freedom to Marry demonstrations, in which they apply to their local authorities for marriage licenses that are routinely denied.

In Yolo County, Calif., just west of Sacramento, clerk-recorder Freddie Oakley has been for four years the one denying those licenses, much against her own belief in marriage equality.

This year, to protest her state's position, Oakley will issue same-sex applicants to her Woodland office a Certificate of Inequality, proclaiming that "your choice of marriage partner displeases some people whose displeasure is, apparently, more important than principles of equality."

"I'm the one who stands behind the desk and does it...who says no," Oakley said Friday. "Because it's so odious, I can't ask anyone on my staff to do it. And every year it gets harder. This year I thought, What can I do to make it less odious? And I thought, I'll give everyone a takeaway."

Oakley said the certificates aren't printed with public funds and reflect her personal beliefs. But Randy Thomasson, whose Sacramento-based Campaign for Children and Families is fighting San Francisco's 2004 same-sex nuptials in court, criticized Oakley's intent to issue them from her county office.

"The people pay government officials to implement the law and to faithfully execute the law...not to ridicule the law and perform stunts that advocate the overthrow of marriage," Thomasson told TheSacramento Bee.

The California supreme court is expected to rule in the San Francisco marriage case late this year, while Thomasson and others continue to try to get a state constitutional amendment before California voters banning same-sex marriage.

A former lobbyist and appointed member of the Yolo County board of supervisors, Oakley was first elected to her nonpartisan post in 2002. She says she's been married to the same man for 37 years, "and I'm an evangelical Christian. When I face Jesus and have to account for my errors, I want to tell him that I erred on the side of love."

Though valid California marriage certificates can only be provided--or, for that matter, denied--by county clerks' offices, Oakley says she'll be happy to provide a Certificate of Inequality to anyone who e-mails her at oakley@dcn.org. (Barbara Wilcox, The Advocate)

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