America is Ready: Counties across the nation prepare for the freedom to marry
June 18, 2015
As we await the United States Supreme Court's ruling on the question of the freedom to marry, counties in the states where same-sex couples cannot yet marry are preparing for the possibility that their marriage bans may be struck down as a result of the decision.
This news could come as early as Monday, June 22, with the announcement expected sometime this month. County clerks in many states have spoken out that they will be prepared to issue marriage licenses to all qualified couples should the court rule for the freedom to marry. Here's a look:
Last week, on June 11, Dallas County Clerk John Warren announced that he was ready to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the event of a favorable ruling from the United States Supreme Court, even going so far as to say that he would "scratch through" changes on marriage license applications forms, such as the labels of "man" and "woman."
Warren said that within an hour and a half of an opinion, his office would likely begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. “When the Supreme Court issues its opinion, I will immediately meet with counsel to make sure we understand the opinion,” he said. “I’ve already sent a briefing over to our commissioner’s court regarding overtime pay for my staff as well as addressed the need to have security not lock the building at its normal 5:00/5:30 scheduled time.”
Earlier this month, Travis County, Texas Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir also stated that she would be ready for a decision in favor of marriage for all couples. DeBeauvoir has been a supporter for the freedom to marry for some time, and said that she was "hoping for crowds" of loving, committed couples ready to get married after the hopefully positive decision.
On Monday, June 22, Texas' Bexar County Clerk Gerry Rickhoff said that he was prepared to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage. "Just get in your car and come down to Bexar," he said. "Because you're going to be embraced here."
Ohio's Brown County Judge Danny Bubp said that counties in the state are ready to follow the law if the United States Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage. "Some counties are leaning forward and already looking at how they would change the forms," he said. "They now say 'bride' and 'groom.' If you have two males come in, who goes on which line? It's clear the form would have to be changed."
Melissa Pearse, the supervisor for distributing marriage licenses in Ohio's Hamilton County, agreed that she would treat all couples the same in the event of a favorable ruling. Probate court officials in many Central Ohio counties have also voiced their readiness for the freedom to marry.
Finally, Stephen Hoffman, Kenton County, Ohio's magistrate, has no reservations about marrying a same-sex couple if the freedom to marry becomes the law of the land. "If the law states...marriages [between same-sex couples] are legal, I'm a duly elected official sworn to uphold the law, so they'll get married," he said.
Preparations are underway in Tennessee, as well. Washington County's County Clerk, Kathy Storey, said that she thinks that Tennessee may start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as the day after a favorable decision comes down.
In Georgia, multiple officials have spoken out in support of immediately respecting the United States Supreme Court's ruling on marriage. Georgia's Governor Nathan Deal, in April, said that a ruling from the nation's highest court would overrule any bans on the state level. "I think we understand that in our republican form of government, that federal, constitutional issues trump state constitutional issues," he said. "So we will abide by whatever the Supreme Court rules as an interpretation of the United States Constitution.”
Georgia's Attorney General has also voiced his commitment to following a Supreme Court decision. Attorney General Sam Olens also affirmed his duty to follow the law. "When the Supreme Court rules on an issue, we’re going to follow the order…" he said. "We’re going to encourage all those agencies that have a policy role that they immediately follow the law... When the U.S. Supreme Court rules, it’s not time for criticism. It’s not time for banter. It’s time for the lawyer to play lawyer, and to ensure that everyone follows that law.”
Earlier this month, Georgia's Fulton County's Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to urge the county clerks in the county to be ready for same-sex couples if the ruling comes down in favor of ending the marriage ban. And, across the state, Georgia's Council of Probate Judges said marriage licenses will be issued to same-sex couples. “We have made our judges aware of consequences if they do not adhere to a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Cook County Probate Judge Chase Daughtrey said. "Short story, we're ready."
And in Michigan, the Calhoun County Clerk's office is ready for a large number of same-sex couples to apply for marriage licenses in the event that the United States Supreme Court lifts the state's marriage ban. "We feel as though we will be somewhat inundated the first day after the ruling,” Calhoun County Clerk, Anne Norlander, said. "...We will put a new form out on the Internet. It's a worksheet."
Freedom to Marry congratulates these counties on their preparedness and eagerness to follow the law should the United States Supreme Court bring the question of marriage between same-sex couples to a national resolution, and urges all counties, in every state where the rights and responsibilities are denied to families, to follow their lead.