UPDATE: County expects rush for same-sex marriage licenses

Hours, staffing expanded Dec. 6-8




The Clark County Auditor’s Marriage License Department has beefed up hours and staffing Dec. 6 and 7 and will hold special Saturday hours Dec. 8 to serve an expected influx of same-sex couples who will exercise their new right to marry.

County Auditor Greg Kimsey expects a surge of applicants from both Washington and Oregon on Dec. 6 — the first day same-sex couples may apply for a marriage license. A mandatory three-day waiting period means the first same-sex marriages won’t occur until Dec. 9.

“It’s reasonable to expect people from the Portland metro area will be traveling over here,” Kimsey said.

Hours will be 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 6 and 7 and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 8. The marriage license department ordinarily closes at 5 p.m. on weekdays and isn’t open on Saturdays.

The auditor’s office also plans to offer five application stations, instead of the usual three, on the second floor of the Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St. People who are still in line when the office closes will be given a numbered ticket, so they’ll be first in line the following day, Kimsey said.

On Nov. 6, voters in Washington approved Referendum 74, upholding the same-sex marriage law approved earlier this year by the state Legislature. That Election Day was a watershed moment for marriage equality, as it marked the first time voters sanctioned same-sex nuptials. Along with Washington, Maryland and Maine voters gave same-sex couples the right to marry in their states.

Rob Figley, a Vancouver wedding officiant, said a group of Referendum 74 advocates will be at a gazebo in front of the county building Dec. 6 to help out in any way they can. They’ll offer coffee, pastries, other refreshments and information.

The group is also searching for a venue Dec. 9 where officiants will marry same-sex couples without prearrangements in a sort of mass wedding bash.

“We are looking for a place where we can go to perform wedding ceremonies for those who want to be first in line,” Figley said.

Kimsey said the increase in hours and staff was prompted by an estimate by King County that 3,000 same-sex couples would visit that county’s auditor’s office to apply for marriage on the first day licenses are available. King County plans to open at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 6.

“We certainly don’t expect to see that volume here, but if it’s even close to that, we want to be as prepared as we can,” Kimsey said.

The department typically receives about 25 marriage license applications a day, he said.

Applicants may fill out an application on the county’s website, but still need to visit the marriage license department to sign and submit the application. The application fee is $64.

The state Department of Health plans to revise rules to require that marriage and divorce certificates have gender-neutral terms in place of “bride,” “groom,” “husband,” and “wife.”

“We’ve thought if the form is not changed, we may even white out the gender-specific terms on our form,” Kimsey said. “Hopefully, the Department of Health will get the form modified in time, and we will be able to use it Dec. 6. And hopefully our software vendor will be able to change our software so it reflects the change.”

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts; http://facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com.