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A kerfuffle over the words on marriage licenses may drive more Californians out to vote for a marriage-protection ballot initiative.
BY ROBIN ROHRREGISTER CORRESPONDENT
ROSEVILLE, Calif. – Do young couples
about to get married want to be known as “Party A” and “Party B?” Or would they
rather check off “bride” and “groom” on their marriage license application?
The very fact that the question is
being asked may drive Californians to the polls Nov. 4 to reaffirm the decision
they made eight years ago — to legally define marriage as the union between one
man and one woman.
Though California voters in 2000 had
defined marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman, in May, the state
Supreme Court decided to redefine marriage themselves. And when same-sex
“marriage” became legal in California, the state amended marriage license
applications to reflect a new reality.
When Rachel Bird and Gideon Codding
went to get their marriage license from Placer County, they noticed the form
said “Party A” and “Party B.” Nowhere did it say “bride” and “groom.”
“We did not cross out ‘Party A’ and
‘Party B,’” said Rachel Bird-Codding. “We just wrote in next to them the words
‘Bride’ and ‘Groom.’”
Bird’s father, Pastor Doug Bird of
Roseville’s Abundant Life Fellowship, officiated at the wedding Aug. 16, signed
the form and sent it in, and the couple took a honeymoon trip. They thought
they were legally married.
But when they got home in early
September, the couple received a phone call from Placer County: The state had
rejected the application because of the alteration the couple had made on it.
Placer County returned the license to Pastor Bird, as the officiator of the
marriage. The couple had 10 days to complete a duplicate form.
They brought the matter to the
attention of the press, and Californians have been sympathetic to their plight.
Their fight had another effect in
the state: Ever since the marriage license issue has been reported in the
press, poll numbers for support of Proposition 8 have risen.
Proposition 8 is a ballot initiative
that would place into the California Constitution the same language voters
approved in 2000 (“only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or
recognized in California”). But it was not doing well in public opinion polls.
A CBS 5 (San Francisco) poll released in mid-September showed that 38% of
likely voters backed Proposition 8, while 55% opposed it.
The couple sued the state
on Oct. 6. They are being represented by Brad Dacus of the Pacific
Justice Institute. Since the lawsuit has been in the press, Proposition 8
support percentages have risen to 47%. Those opposed have fallen to 42%.
Now that the state reversed its
policy, the Placer County Clerk-Recorder notified the Coddings that their
application will be resent to the state.
Bird-Codding is delighted.
“These are legal documents recorded
for generations to come,” she continued. “Our descendants may look up those
records some day to know who we are. We
are not Party A and Party B; we are a bride and groom.”
“Within two hours of filing the
lawsuit, the State of California announced they would be changing the marriage
license form, although they deny this was their reason,” Dacus said. “This is an attempt to make this a non-issue
for Prop 8. However, the state has declared the new form will not be adopted
until after the election. This is suspect, as this agency has done everything
to further homosexual policies. We are very cautious. We will continue with our
litigation to get a legally binding resolution affirming protection for every
future bride and groom in the State of California.”
California’s Office of Vital
Records’ policy at the time of the Bird-Codding wedding was that any alteration
of the license application was grounds for rejection, and the application would
be returned to the originating county.
Suanne Buggy, from the Office of
Vital Records, said the office “heard from a lot of Californians that they
wanted to identify as bride and groom, and we have been working on options that
would be consistent with the Supreme Court ruling.”
The new forms will offer check boxes
for bride and groom, and couples can check whichever combination applies —
including bride and bride or groom and groom. The terms “Party A” and “Party B”
will be removed. The new forms will be in use beginning Nov. 17.
“The current policy regarding
marriage licenses, until the new form is in use, advises couples wishing to
identify as bride and groom to speak with their local county clerk, and the
issue will be handled on a case-by-case basis,” Buggy continued.
Until the matter is resolved,
Bird-Codding is unable to legally use her husband’s last name, apply for
spousal health benefits, or enjoy marriage’s property benefits.
Pastor Bird expressed his own
frustration with the ordeal. “When we got the letter, we felt violated as
people with traditional values,” he said. “Bride and groom have been used for
thousands of years and are mentioned throughout Scripture, in both the Old and
New Testaments. To have them taken away in order to give rights to a minority
leaves this tradition behind.”
Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and
president of the pro-marriage Ruth Institute, said, “The Supreme Court has
changed the definition of marriage for everyone. This case shows that marriage can be either a
gender-based institution or a gender-neutral institution.
“Sacramento told this nice couple
that they can not have a gendered marriage: They are Party A and Party B,
whether they like it or not,” said Morse, a Register columnist. “We need to be
prepared for the gay lobby to spin our opposition as ‘see how it feels’. But this is not correct. There is no neutral ground. It is either a gender institution or it is
not, and it will be for everybody. Pretending that it treats everyone the same
is fundamentally dishonest and should not fool anyone.”
Judy Barrett, chairwoman of Respect
Life for the Diocese of Santa Rosa, stated, “Passing Proposition 8 is of such
crucial importance. I think many people [including a lot of our fellow
Catholics] don’t have a clue as to the far-reaching consequences if it fails —
beginning with what kids would be taught about marriage in public schools.
Proposition 8 will restore the definition of marriage for the good of society
and especially for children. Proposition
8 will overturn the court’s decision, reestablish the will of the people, and
return to parents the right to educate their children concerning marriage
according to their own values and religious beliefs.”
Said Dacus, “Those who oppose
Proposition 8 say there is no way homosexual ‘marriage’ impacts those who wish
to be man and wife. Well, we have a
smoking gun to the contrary.”
Robin Rohr is based