You have to
figure ''bride'' and ''groom'' are out.
So what will the
California marriage license look like in the new era of
same-sex marriages? Will it list ''partner A'' and ''partner
B''? ''Intended number 1'' and ''intended number 2''?
Or will it contain just blank spaces for the
decision last week that legalized gay marriage in California
has created a semantic puzzle with scant time to solve it.
With the ruling tentatively set to take effect June
16, state bureaucrats must rapidly rewrite, print, and
distribute a marriage license application.
one-page form uses ''bride'' and ''groom'' four times each,
and also requires the signatures of an ''unmarried man'' and
an ''unmarried woman,'' wording that is obviously out
of step with the California supreme court ruling
opening the way for gay marriages.
same-sex couples are expected to flock to the state next
month to wed. But typically it takes the state months to
churn out new forms.
executive director for the National Center for Lesbian
Rights, said she is not particularly worried.
''This is where
you don't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good,''
she said. ''If people can marry and those marriages are
legally recognized in compliance with the court ruling
... the t's crossed and i's dotted on
the form are the least of our concerns.''
The person with
the final word is Mark Horton, director of the state
Public Health Department, which oversees the Office of Vital
''It's too early
for us to give specifics,'' said Linette Scott, a deputy
director at the department. ''We are going to be in
compliance with the court order.''
the only other state to legalize gay marriage,
''bride'' and ''groom'' were dropped from its marriage
certificate in favor of ''party A'' and ''party B.''
Those individuals then check a box to indicate male or
female. In Vermont, which issues certificates of civil
union for gays, couples also are identified as ''party A''
and ''party B.''
out ''bride'' and ''groom'' on the current California
form could be problematic. The form reads: ''Make no
erasures, whiteouts, or other alterations.''
Tom McClusky, a
vice president at the conservative Family Research
Council, said the state should maintain two marriage forms,
one of which preserves ''bride'' and ''groom.''
definition is seen to be so fluid, where do you stop?'' he
asked. ''I can imagine the discussion in a couple of years
of how many people should be included. Why is it wrong
for two men and a woman to get married? I don't want
to see the top of wedding cake.''
The wording on
the license is just one of many unanswered questions left
in the wake of the ruling that struck down laws against gay
marriage in the nation's most populous state. There
are questions about its effective date. And it could
be a fleeting victory for gays, since religious and
social conservatives hope to put a constitutional amendment
on the state ballot in November that would undo the
Massachusetts, California has no residency requirement for
obtaining a marriage license. That means the state could
become a magnet for gays nationwide eager to tie the
Alliance Defense Fund plans to ask the high court to
stay its ruling until after the election.
''There will be
all kinds of chaos and confusion if there are thousands
of marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples before
November'' and voters then pass the amendment banning
gay marriage, said Glen Lavy, senior counsel for the
For now, things
are moving ahead, if haltingly.
In Los Angeles
County, home to nearly 10 million people, officials are
considering opening more satellite offices to issue marriage
licenses, recruiting more volunteer commissioners to
conduct ceremonies, and ensuring enough police to
handle the crowds.
''We never find
ourselves in a circumstance when things get implemented
so quickly,'' said Steven Weir, president of the California
Association of Clerks and Elected Officials. ''We
already have people calling and making inquiries. Many
are anxious to get a license immediately, and some are
extremely agitated they can't be accommodated right now.''