Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Marrying Friends, California Style


No, you don't get a badge. Not yours. Then again, becoming a volunteer deputy marriage commissioner in California is bound to be real popular real soon.

Same-sex marriages start in less than a week there, late on June 16th. Some of those — to my way of thinking and experience, the most fun and satisfying — will be performed by a friend or relative. I bet many SS couples will appreciate the personal aspect more than using a minister, justice of the peace or civic official.

California seems to have copied and adapted the long-standing Massachusetts designated one-day solemnizer thingummy. We've been doing it here forever, but California's implementation makes it quicker and easier. Both are a one-day/one-couple authorization to declare a pair married and legally sign the license for recording as official.

California goes us better by:
  • Location. Our One Day Marriage Solemnization requires specifying at application time where the marriage will occur. It must be there. Their Deputy Commissioner of Marriage Program lets the event happen anywhere in the state.
  • Frequency. Here, one-day solemnizers can only perform one marriage in a calendar year. There, one can apparently churn 'em out.
  • Delay. It's not that they don't trust us (maybe it is), but it goes through the governor's office (don't tell anyone, but it's actually bureaucrats in the secretary of state's). They do cursory checks to avoid immigration and bigamy scams. Getting your certificate can take a week or even two. In California, you stride into the local registrar's office (if they participate), fill out the papers and get your own authorization. In contrast, El Dorado county warns of its version of delays — a 15-minute how-to instruction and if you don't make an appointment first, up to two hours at the office.
On the other hand, ours is statewide. Any adult can apply over the Net. California is easing into this as county officials decide to participate. Right now, that includes counties of Alameda, El Dorado, Los Angeles, Napa, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, and Sonoma.

Also, theirs is slightly more expensive, typically $40. Ours is fixed at $25.

I've solemnized two marriages for long-term friends. More than more stereotypical weddings, everyone mists up or wetter. It is definitely special to have someone who already knows you and loves you do the deed.

In 2003, I solemnized a marriage
for a straight couple in pre-Goodridge days. She and I had known each other for over 20 years and her beau had wanted to marry her for decades longer. Meanwhile, they had gone about life, and in and out of marriages. Four decades in the making, this was moving for all of us.

The next year, I performed the ceremony for two men
, one who had gone to college with me and remained friends over the decades. He's godfather to one of my sons. We had attended their civil union in Vermont the previous year, but local with all the family, friends and coworkers, and in this case full legal marriage, is considerably more powerful.

It's a bit of a pain to get your paper. It is unquestionably worth doing so.

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