Two More California Counties Stop Officiating at Weddings

Timothy Kincaid

June 11th, 2008

Shortly after Kern County Clerk Ann Barnett decided to block all civil weddings, two more California counties announced they would stop conducting civil weddings.

Butte County
The San Jose Mercury News reports

Butte County Clerk Candace Grubbs says the county can’t afford to continue performing wedding ceremonies. About 200 couples a year marry at the clerk’s office.

Grubbs said her decision has nothing to do with the California Supreme Court’s ruling last month legalizing gay marriage.

Although this seems suspect to me (Butte is a conservative county and voted 69% in favor of Proposition 22), Dagon (posting at Pam’s House Blend) spoke with Ms. Grubbs and believes her to be sincere.

After the Primary Election, her office found itself in a budget crunch. They had to leave positions unfilled. She had to look at all the duties of her job and see what she could NOT do and get by. Wedding ceremonies are a “may” ,not a “must do” for Clerk-Recorders. Plus, Ms. Grubbs sees herself as in competition with the private sector … not only religious folks, but also non-religious folk AND the “deputies for a day.”

In California, for a small fee through Ms. Grubbs office, ANYONE may officiate at a single wedding. They apply, get trained in how to fill out the paper work, and officiate at the one wedding. Way cool. Ms. Grubbs thinks this is so much more personal and pleasant an option than one of her staff, unknown to the couple, officiating at the nuptials.

Ms. Grubbs, then, is operating differently from Ms. Barnett who is refusing to authorize anyone to perform civil marriages.

Merced County
Merced County Auditor-Clerk Stephen Jones tried to play the Barnett game. But, like Barnett, his real intentions were revealed. The Modesto Bee:

In an interview Friday morning, Jones said his decision to stop performing weddings wasn’t made to avoid marrying same sex couples.

“This wasn’t about my beliefs on the issue,” Jones said.

Instead, he cited staffing and space shortages, saying his office no longer has the room or the people to perform marriages.

But those pesky emails revealed that Jones cherishes family values more than he does truth.

On Friday afternoon, the Sun-Star obtained an e-mail that seemed to discount Jones’ explanation that his office lacked space for marriage ceremonies.

Jones sent an e-mail Thursday morning to Dee Tatum, county chief executive officer, and the Board of Supervisors outlining his decision to stop performing weddings.

In his response, sent before Jones announced plans to stop performing marriages, Tatum wrote, “If space is a problem, then certainly we can make (room) 301 available and 310, as well as the board chambers when it is not in use.”

Tatum added, “I would suggest before you take this step to see if this is legally defensible. I place no value on whether marriages are right or wrong or should be conducted or not. We, the organization, will certainly be asked why after all these years we have taken this step.”

Although Tatum made his offer before Jones announced that he was stopping marriages, when the truth came out he suddenly discovered that his office could perform marriages after all.

Kings County
The county clerk in Kings County is relying on a technicality to try and sidestep the ruling of the state Supreme Court. (AP)

[I]n its May 15 decision the state Supreme Court also directed a midlevel appeals court that upheld the state’s one man-one woman marriage laws a year ago to issue a new order legalizing same-sex marriage, and it’s not clear when the appeals court must comply.

[T]he clerk in Kings County has indicated he does not plan to grant the new licenses, which say “Party A” and “Party B” where “bride” and “groom” used to be, until the Court of Appeals takes that step. Kings County’s legal counsel had advised the clerk to wait until the appeals court acts.

Kings County has posted a notice on its Web site saying it does “not anticipate any changes in our current marriage license procedures until such time as the lower court’s implementation rulings take effect.”

Kings County Clerk Ken Baird did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Bogus Budgetary Claims
Stephen Weir, president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials scoffs at the claims by some county clerks about their budget causing them to deny civil marriages.

Contrary to the claim from Kern County that the ceremonies are a drain on resources, Weir said they make money for county coffers. Weir also serves as clerk in Contra Costa County.

“It is a financial plus,” said Weir, whose office makes $72,000 a year solemnizing marriages at $60 a pop. “It’s something you can do fairly easily, pays its own way and is a service you are providing to your customer.”

Of course, Weir is very excited about the change in wedding licensing for a personal reason.

He and his partner, John Hemm, want to be first at the counter that day. They plan to be the first to exchange vows and kisses in the conference room Weir converted into a wedding chapel that hosts 1,200 couples a year, but that he could never use.

“I’ve waited all of this time to be able to walk into my own office and stand in line and pay what used to be $64 and now is $85 to buy a license and have a ceremony,” says Weir, who also is president of the state clerks association.

“It’s a big deal.”

See also:
Kern Co. Supervisors Reject Anti-Gay Ordinance
Calaveras County Joins Kern and Butte
Barnett Breaks Her Media Silence – Stupidly, of Course
Chad Vegas – Kern Co. School Board Trustee’s Double Standard
Ann Barnett Annoys Local Bakersfield Media
Two More California Counties Stop Officiating at Weddings
CA Anti-Gays Either Completely Idiotic or Shameless Liars
No Non-Religious Marriages in Kern County
A Voice of Reason in Kern Co.
Kern Co. (Bakersfield) Clerk Ann K. Barnett Cancels Straight Weddings
More Bakersfield Bigotry
Bakersfield – Not a Place to Plan Your Wedding

Ryan K

June 11th, 2008

Anyone need someone to marry them? I’m all yours.

the "blog" word

June 11th, 2008

May I Marry You?…

Never mind that three California counties have stopped marrying anyone (hmm, avoiding marrying the gays, are we?).  I learned that any person can officiate at a civil wedding in California.So, does anyone want me to marry them?  Pretty please…


June 12th, 2008

There was that childless Indian Prince I am waiting for !


June 12th, 2008

I am a little shocked that counties have the ability to withdraw services like this to everyone. Aren’t these considered essential services?

Can’t the courts force countries to provide all services? Can’t they just fire the clerk?


June 12th, 2008

Apparently the mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, has said that if these counties really don’t have the staff/finances to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, he’ll go there and do it himself.

(Hat tip: Good As You… and their comment, “Does Gavin Newsom crap rose-scented pride flags? Because honestly, this straight dude’s gay commitment is so strong, it almost makes us feel like we’re homophobic…” put a smile on my face.)


June 13th, 2008

Well, at least now I know which counties my husband (06/27/08) and I WON’T be considering when we move to California!

Gulf Shores beach we

August 28th, 2008

I agree with toujoursdan. I thought that was something they were required to do.

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