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December 5, 2012

Same-sex marriage licenses available today at clerk’s office

Will become effective midnight, Jan. 1

CUMBERLAND — As soon as Gov. Martin O’Malley proclaims a bill legalizing same sex-marriage as passed by voters, which is expected today, the Allegany County Circuit Clerk’s Office will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“It was at the clerk’s discretion. We’ve just had a lot of requests, so we wanted to go ahead and issue them,” Dawne Lindsey, circuit clerk, said.

Clerks have the option of waiting until Jan. 2 to begin issuing the licenses.

Much of the interest is from local same-sex couples.

Ruth Brantner and her partner, Sabrina DeWitt, plan to be among those obtaining a marriage license today. Their wedding date is still tentative as they work out plans for relatives to be present.

The licenses will become effective at midnight Jan. 1.

No civil services will be performed until Jan. 2 because the courthouse is closed New Year’s Day, Lindsey said. Roughly 350 marriages are performed at the courthouse each year by Lindsey or a staff member when she is not available.

“I do the bulk of them,” Lindsey said. “I carry out my duties as required by Maryland laws passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor. My personal point of view does not enter into any aspect of my job.”

While the law exempts religious institutions from carrying out same-sex marriages, clerks are required to perform marriages as part of their duties.

Although there’s a small spike in weddings in June, the holidays bring out the couples, Lindsey said.

Halloween is a big day for weddings as well, she said.

Of course, Valentine’s Day is usually the biggest day for weddings, with Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and April Fools’ Day also having spikes in the number of weddings performed.

Then there’s a day coming up with a number of weddings planned — 12/12/12.

Because Allegany County is listed first on the state’s websites when people search for marriage license information, Lindsey said her office has been getting a fair number of calls from residents of other states about same-sex marriage licenses.

You don’t need to be a resident of Maryland to get married in Maryland, Lindsey said.

A new set of civil vows for all couples has been prepared and approved by the circuit’s administrative judge, Lindsey said.

The vows are pretty standard, but now are universal to all marriages of any gender, she said.

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