Same-Sex Couples Request Marriage Licenses

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, February 14, 2008

The lobby of the Clerk-Recorder’s office is bustling with well-dressed couples this Valentine’s Day…some holding flowers and heart-shaped balloons. 

"Love is definitely in the air at the Recorder’s Office." 

Chief Deputy Clerk Recorder Donna Allred predicts her staff will a record-breaking number of marriage licenses…well over last year’s 69. 

Among the couples waiting in line are two-middle aged women both dressed in red…Ellen Pontac and Shelly Bailes. They’ve been domestic partners for 34 years and today, they want to get married. But they know they’ll be refused. The couple walks up to Allred.
Shelly: We would like to be married. We’re asking you if we can get married.
Donna: Well, I have to ask you if there is an unmarried man and an unmarried woman in your party?
Shelly: No there is not.
Donna: Okay, by the State of California I cannot let you apply for a marriage license because you do not meet the criteria for a California marriage license. 

Both women look disappointed and quietly step back. Ellen Pontac says the rejection is painful. 

"It’s not a surprise and yet it really hurts."  

Pontac and Bailes are among hundreds of couples statewide who took part in the protest organized by Marriage Equality USA. Shelly Bailes says the rejection is emotional but they’re trying to make a point. 

"It brings it to the forefront and that’s what’s important." 

In a little over two weeks the state Supreme Court will take up the issue of same-sex marriage.

Brad Dacus is president of the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative group. He calls yesterday’s protest by a publicity stunt.  

"They’re trying to draw attention in hopes to sway or influence on our state Supreme Court. I think it’s a slap in the face to the integrity of the state Supreme Court." 

Back at the County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, David and Jeff Janis-Kitzmiller have just been denied a marriage license. But David says he’s still optimistic about next month’s Supreme Court hearing. 

"We’re hopeful that this is the last year we’ll have to do this on a Valentine’s Day that next year you won’t have to see us because we’ll already be married." 

The state Supreme Court hearing on same-sex marriages is scheduled for March 4th.