Clerks ready to handle marriage license requests

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — Local clerks' offices around the state were poised for Friday's ruling legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states. In most cases, clerks were ready to issue marriage licenses immediately.

In Oakland County, Lisa Brown, the clerk and register of deeds, said she will give out licenses to same-sex couples right away.

"I'm not going to make people wait," Brown said. "They've waited long enough and they should not have to wait any longer."

Brown was among less than a handful of Michigan clerks who married just over 300 same-sex couples in March 2014 during a narrow window on a Saturday in March 2014 after U.S. Judge Bernard Friedman's struck down the Michigan Marriage Amendment. The voter-approved initiative mandates marriage is between "one man and one woman," but Friedman ruled it was unconstitutional and "violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution."

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum issued 57 marriage licenses to same-sex couples . Since then, Byrum has compiled the emails of about three dozen gay and lesbian couples who wish to be immediately notified when she will start performing same-sex marriage ceremonies again, should the U.S. Supreme Court rule in their favor and overturn Michigan's 11-year-old gay marriage ban.

"I'll be ready to go whenever it is legal. Period," said Byrum, a former Democratic state representative.

Byrum said she "will likely waive" the three-day waiting period for a marriage license, as she did last year when county residents rushed to the courthouse in Mason on a Saturday morning to be married.

In Washtenaw County, clerk Lawrence Kestenbaum is ready to accommodate an anticipated large number of couples who weren't able to get married in March 2014 before the legal window allowing them to do so closed.

"We're ready to go," Kestenbaum said. "We have the form ... a gender-neutral form. That's the form we've been using. Kestenbaum's office gave out 75 same-sex marriage licenses.

"Once the decision regarding same-sex marriages comes down, our office will honor the law and handle requests just like heterosexual marriages," Wayne County Clerk CathyGarrett said.

Garrett said those requesting marriage licenses must bring proper identification and standard processing fees will apply.

In Macomb, the clerk says the county will also give out licenses without waiting for a state directive.

"I would think as long as the (U.S.) Supreme Court (rules for same-sex couples) we would go ahead and do that," Macomb Clerk Carmella Sabaugh said. "We don't believe we have to wait for the state."

"I'll follow the state registrar's office," said Patricia Truman, clerk for Alcona County in the northeastern part of the state. Clerks are directed by the state of Michigan's Registrar's office.

Truman said she doesn't expect a line for licenses for same-sex marriage, noting the small population in her county. She said she has waited for direction from the state in the past as well.

Emmet County clerk Juli Wallin will deal with it differently.

"If it's lifted then technically I'm supposed to issue licenses," Wallin said. "My plans are to follow the law. I will be contacting the state but I want to go with the law."

Wallin says she is expecting to give out at least one same-sex license saying "there's been a high-profile (same-sex couple)" she believes will ask for one.

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Detroit News Staff Writer Chad Livengood contributed.