Local News

Wednesday, Jun 26 2013 10:04 AM

Brown: Counties must comply with gay marriage

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    By AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

    American University students Sharon Burk, left, and Molly Wagner, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, after the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban.

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    By Pete Marovich/ZUMA

    Supporters of same sex marriage celebrate outside the Supreme Court after hearing that the Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. The US Supreme Court has struck down a law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman only, in a landmark ruling. The court's 5-4 vote said the Defense of Marriage Act, known as Doma, denied equal protection to same-sex couples. The court also declined to rule on a California ban on same-sex marriage known as Proposition 8. The decision paves the way for gay unions there.

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    By Pete Marovich/ZUMA

    Davis Baker, 24, center, of Phoenix, Ariz., celebrates outside the Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court has struck down a law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman only, in a landmark ruling. The court's 5-4 vote said the Defense of Marriage Act, known as Doma, denied equal protection to same-sex couples. The court also declined to rule on a California ban on same-sex marriage known as Proposition 8. The decision paves the way for gay unions there.

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    By Pete Marovich/ZUMA

    Julio Diaz, 28, right, of Chicago, Ill., runs down the steps of the Supreme Court in celebration after the Court ruled 5-4 to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, in Washington, D.C.

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    By Pete Marovich/ZUMA

    Mchael Knappen, left, and his husband John Becker embrace outside the Supreme Court after hearing that the Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. The Supreme Court issued a pair of opinions expanding gay rights, ruling unconstitutional a law denying federal benefits to married same-sex couples and effectively permitting gay marriage in California.

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    By Arriving at the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, on a final day for decisions in two gay marriage cases are plaintiffs in the California Proposition 8 case. From left are, Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, plaintiffs Paul Katami, his partner Jeff Zarrillo, Sandy Stier and her partner Kris Perry, and Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

    Arriving at the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, on a final day for decisions in two gay marriage cases are plaintiffs in the California Proposition 8 case. From left are, Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, plaintiffs Paul Katami, his partner Jeff Zarrillo, Sandy Stier and her partner Kris Perry, and Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown says he has directed the California Department of Public Health to start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples as soon as a federal appeals court lifts its stay on a lower court ruling in the case.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday let stand that lower court ruling, which overturned the state's voter-approved gay marriage ban, Proposition 8.

Brown said in a statement that the court has made same-sex marriage a reality in California "after years of struggle."

The Democratic governor says he and Attorney General Kamala Harris have determined that county clerks and county registrars must comply with Wednesday's ruling and begin registering same-sex marriage licenses once the stay is lifted.

The state Department of Public Health says in a letter to counties that it could take a month or more before that happens.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is calling for immediate resumption of same-sex marriages..

Supreme Court rulings normally take effect after 25 days, but Harris has told a Los Angeles press conference Wednesday that she is certain marriages could resume much more quickly.

The trial court’s ruling was stayed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the attorney general contends the appeals court has the authority lift the stay before the 25 days are up.

Kern County Auditor-Controller Mary Bedard, who runs the Kern County Clerk's office, said that her office will begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples when it becomes legal to do so.

"We're waiting, like all the other counties, on the Ninth Circuit," Bedard said. "Once they act we'll implement it."

No special preparations will be needed to make the change, she said.

Marriage forms will not need to be altered to prepare for marriages, Bedard said.

Marriage license forms were changed in 2008 to accommodate same sex marriages.

She said the County Clerk's office does not plan to begin performing civil marriages again. There is no longer staffing to conduct the ceremonies and they are not economically beneficial to the county.

The practice of conducting marriage ceremonies was terminated abruptly by Bedard's predecessor, Ann Barnett, in 2008 just before same marriage became briefly legal in California.

Barnett said the decision was made to reduce costs but county officials reported that the practice actually brought in revenue for the county.

Barnett, a devout Christian, attempted to give up control of the County Clerk's office before terminating the civil marriages against the advice of the Kern County Counsel's office, which informed her it could trigger a civil rights lawsuit against the county.

Barnett then appealed to a conservative Christian legal firm, which fought against gay marriage, to defend her against any potential lawsuit.

No lawsuit was ever filed.
 

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