Software issue delays awarding of same-sex licenses

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Barry County to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses on July 21

After saying his office would accept same-sex marriage licenses immediately on Friday, Craig Williams, recorder of deeds and circuit clerk in Barry County, said the office's software is not able to handle the change yet, which will delay the issuance of the licenses.

"We have contacted our vendor, COTT, and they are making the necessary changes to be in compliance with the Supreme Court ruling," he said. "Since the software is not ready and the decision by the Supreme Court did not say to implement immediately, we will wait the 25 days and will not begin accepting same sex marriage license until July 21.

"On these tabs marked 'Groom' and 'Bride,' there is no indicator what sex they are, as before the ruling it was presumed groom was a male and bride was a female. We have asked COTT to change these tabs to 'Party 1' and 'Party 2,' with a place to indicate what sex they are. I am assuming that the Bureau of Vital Stats will want to know that at some time."

According to the Recorders Association of Missouri, rulings of the court take effect 25 days after the date of the ruling unless otherwise specified.

"It is also important to point out there is no restriction with regard to implementing the ruling before 25 days," said Jan Jones, president of the association.

On Friday, Williams said the office of the recorder has always attempted to comply to the best of its ability with the laws governing marriage license applications in the state of Missouri.

"While we recognize that same-sex marriage has been a divisive issue, we respect the judicial process," he said.

Pam Robertson, Lawrence County recorder, said even though her computer program, the same as in Williams' office, only has bride and groom designations, she will still be issuing same-sex marriage licenses to anyone who applies for them.

"We were issued a notice from the Recorders Association [of Missouri] that we are supposed to issue them to anyone who applies, so we are on board," she said. "The applications still only show fields for 'bride' and 'groom,' but if the applicants will allow me to, I will white that part out and the license will still go through just fine. We are working on getting it to a non-gender-specific field."

Via a 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court Friday morning, same-sex marriages will officially be legal in about three weeks, although recorders of deeds may begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses now if they choose to do so.

Before Friday's Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, 37 states allowed same-sex marriages, and the ruling now defines same-sex marriage as a legal right in all 50 states. It would mean an end to the ban on same-sex marriages in the state of Missouri.

State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, said he is against same-sex marriage but would be in favor of a civil union designation to allow gay couples the monetary rights afforded to straight couples.

"I am adamant on this and will not change my belief that marriage is between a man and a woman," he said. "If two men or two women want a civil union and the legal rights, I'm OK with that. But, marriage was founded on Christian principles and I will not change my stance on that.

"I do understand from a financial consequences of something like this, and I have no problem with a legal type of union, but not marriage."

Sater said he believes the ruling is an overreach by the federal government, and the states should be allowed to decide individually if same-sex marriage should be legal.

"I think it takes the power out of the hands of the states," he said. "I'm a big states' rights person, and I am doubtful the feds know what southwest Missouri needs, and we should be making those decisions here."

State Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, said the decision to override state bans prevents citizens from governing themselves.

"In 2004, 71 percent of Missouri voters overwhelmingly voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman," he said. "Every single county, except the city of St. Louis, voted for traditional marriage. By redefining the institution of marriage nationwide, the unelected Supreme Court has decided that Americans, and Missourians, are no longer allowed to govern themselves.

"Not once does the U.S. Constitution reference marriage; its recognition and definition is a right reserved to the states under the 10th amendment. Today's ruling is an alarming demonstration by the Supreme Court of their willingness to ignore the confines of the constitution when making their rulings, and further emphasizes the importance of electing presidents who will fill seats on the Supreme Court with individuals who are committed to ruling based on the words in the Constitution rather than their personal preferences."

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the 103-page majority opinion, which may be found at http://tinyurl.com/o2orz9m.

"Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right," he wrote. "No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.

"It would misunderstand these men and women to say that they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

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