Saturday, May 31, 2008

News and Notes, May 31

A new poll finds that for the first time in the state's history, a slim majority of voters supports same-sex marriage, which the state Supreme Court declared legal this month. According to the nonpartisan Field Poll, 51 percent of California registered voters favor allowing same-sex couples to marry, 42 percent are opposed and 7 percent have no opinion. Support for same-sex marriage has steadily increased during the 30 years that the Field Poll has surveyed voters on the issue. But this is the first time more voters expressed support than opposition. The poll also found voters are not inclined to support an amendment to the California Constitution banning same-sex marriage, such as the one targeted for the November ballot. Only 40 percent of those surveyed said they favored such a measure, 54 percent were opposed and 6 percent had no opinion.

County clerks can begin issuing California marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Tuesday, June 17. The state Office of Vital Records said in an email to county clerks Wednesday that June 17 was chosen because the state Supreme Court has until the end of the business day June 16 to decide whether to grant a stay of its May 14 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. “The tricky thing here is we still don’t know whether anything is going to happen up until the close of business on the 16th,” said Vicki Petersen, the chief deputy clerk for Sonoma County. “In any event, we’ll be ready to begin using the new form on 17th.” The new marriage license forms include lines for “Party A” and “Party B” instead of bride and groom.

New York Gov. David A. Paterson has directed all state agencies to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, California and Canada. In a directive issued on May 14, the governor’s legal counsel, David Nocenti, instructed the agencies that gay couples married elsewhere “should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union.” The revisions are most likely to involve as many as 1,300 statutes and regulations in New York governing everything from joint filing of income tax returns to transferring fishing licenses between spouses. In a videotaped message given to gay community leaders at a dinner on May 17, Mr. Paterson described the move as “a strong step toward marriage equality.”

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