‘Bride’ and ‘Groom’ Back in California

A kerfuffle over the words on marriage licenses may drive more Californians out to vote for a marriage-protection ballot initiative.

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.

Tradition Overturned

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

in Willits, California.