NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana is changing the lines labeled "bride" and "groom" on its marriage licenses to "bride/spouse" and "groom/spouse" to accommodate same-sex marriages. But same-sex couples don't have to choose who is bride or groom.
"They could circle whichever one they choose, or mark out" the other, said Holly Vining, president of the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association and clerk of court in Webster Parish. "Either way it would be valid."
Those are record copies, not for display, she noted.
"Each clerk also gives the couples what I call a souvenir wedding certificate. 'The pretty copy,' some of us refer to it as. That's the one they actually keep. Those are different from parish to parish.
"Ours won't say bride, groom, Mr. or Miss. It'll just have the names."
Louisiana, the last holdout state, began issuing licenses to same-sex couples Monday, three days after the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling that marriage is a fundamental right for all Americans.
Just about every parish, from tiny Tensas, with 5,100 rural residents, to East Baton Rouge Parish, pop. 441,900, either had granted at least one same-sex marriage license or was ready to do so Tuesday.
At least 37 parishes had done so Monday, according to the LGBT-rights group Forum For Equality Louisiana. An Associated Press survey of the rest found only a handful not ready. Most of those said they'd start Wednesday.
In LaSalle Parish, Lori Bell in the clerk's land, marriage and passport department said computer software hadn't yet been modified to create the new forms, and she couldn't change them by hand.
That's just what St. Bernard Parish Clerk of Court Randy Nunez did for two couples who came in Tuesday morning.
"I didn't want to hold them up, especially because one couple said they wanted to get married today," Nunez said. "We did a handwritten form. They're going to come back when the system's up and we'll give them a typed copy."
Other clerks said they hadn't had any same-sex applicants, but either had new forms available or would add "/spouse" by hand to old ones.
In Madison Parish, Deb Gilbert said the clerk was out of town on vacation, but told the staff Monday to wait 25 days after the opinion. When told that the clerks' association — which made that recommendation Friday — had changed its stance and said clerks could issue such licenses whenever they were ready, she said she would check the email.
Lincoln Parish Clerk of Court Linda Cook said she planned to start Wednesday, because, as a record-keeper, she felt the start of the month was appropriate for a major change.
The new forms also have a number of changes as part of a general update, said St. Tammany Parish Clerk of Court Malise Prieto. She said her programmer has been on vacation but hoped to have new forms ready Wednesday afternoon.
"I want to be sure all our I's are dotted and our T's are crossed ... because we're one of the few parishes that does have our own form," she said, noting that the parish had needed special permission to create such a form.
While the rest of the state was focused on love and marriage, the Supreme Court decision also allowed same-sex couples to experience a side of marriage that heterosexual couples are already familiar with: Divorce.
Attorney Mitchell Hoffman said a client of his filed for divorce almost as soon as he learned about the decision Friday, and it was granted Monday, a couple of hours before the first gay wedding in the state.
He said the woman and her ex-partner got married in Massachusetts when that state legalized same-sex marriage.
"The relationship didn't work out; they separated and couldn't get divorced in Louisiana," he said. Massachusetts requires one-year residency for divorce, and both women have professional careers in Louisiana, Hoffman said.
He said his client and the other woman went to Orleans Parish Civil District Court on Monday and filed a joint motion for trial.
"The judge set it that day — that minute — basically on presentation — and heard the evidence and signed the judgment of divorce," he said.
The state Office of Motor Vehicles isn't currently allowing newly married same-sex spouses to change their last names on driver's licenses until after the 25-day time limit for the high court to reconsider its ruling. But Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson, whose department oversees the motor vehicles agency, said the system currently isn't even set up to allow the changing of a male's last name without a manual override, so the system is being reprogrammed.
"We should be able to comply with the 25-day period," Edmonson said. "Anytime we have a ruling, we comply with those. But it's not something we can do immediately."
Associated Press writer Melinda Deslatte contributed to this report from Baton Rouge.
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Posted on Wed, July 1, 2015
by JANET McCONNAUGHEY, Associated Press