Louisiana issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Janet McConnaughey
Associated Press

New Orleans — Louisiana officials began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday, days after a historic Supreme Court ruling paved the way for gay marriages across the country.

Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court Jon Geggenheimer said in a telephone interview that a license was issued there Monday morning.

It was believed to be the first license issued to a same-sex couple in the state. Gay rights advocates said Louisiana was believed to be the last state to not have issued any licenses to same-sex couples following the ruling.

The license was issued after the attorney for the clerk of court cleared it, Geggenheimer said.

"History is being made," Geggenheimer said after hearing from his deputy that a couple was receiving a license.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, but clerks around the state had held off on immediately issuing licenses after consulting with lawyers.

The Louisiana Clerks Association issued a statement Friday saying it was advising clerks of court to wait for the end of a 25-day period for the High Court to consider a rehearing.

One couple waited for hours on Friday in New Orleans to receive a license, only to eventually be told it would not happen that day.

Geggenheimer said attorneys pored over the court's ruling and decided there was no reason to delay. He said both people who received the first license worked at the clerk's office.

Holli Vining, president of the Louisiana Clerk of Court Association and clerk of court in Webster Parish, said she had not heard of any other parishes granting same-sex marriage licenses before Jefferson Parish's action.

Gov. Bobby Jindal is opposed to gay marriage but has said the state would comply with the ruling. An organization working for equal rights for gay, bisexual and transgender people took out newspaper ads in the Times-Picayune newspaper Sunday, calling on the governor to respect the court's decision.

"There's really no justification for delay at this point," said Adam Talbot, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign. "Our understanding was that Louisiana was the only state that before today hadn't issued any."

In neighboring Mississippi, at least three marriage licenses for same-sex couples had been issued Friday before state officials advised clerks to wait before issuing more. But on Monday, the state Attorney General sent a letter to county circuit clerks indicating they could go ahead and issue licenses.

At least two same-sex couples were married before noon at the Hinds County Courthouse in Jackson.

Louisiana was one of numerous Southern states where same-sex marriages faced deep opposition. Louisiana voters overwhelmingly approved a 2004 amendment to the state constitution that banned same-sex marriages and prohibited the recognition of same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

Gay rights advocates have said polling shows a shift in voter attitudes since then.