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Developing: After confusion, Imperial County issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Prop 8 Prop 8 trial

By Jacob Combs

Earlier today, an EqualityOnTrial community member posting under the handle ‘Whistleblower’ wrote in a comment on the website that he had contacted the county clerk’s office of Imperial County and was told the office would not be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  He later posted that a representative of the office had confirmed the clerk in fact was issuing licenses, which EqualityOnTrial has confirmed with the Imperial County Clerk/Recorder’s office, the San Francisco City Attorney’s office and the office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Update 1 (2:15 p.m. Pacific): According to an initial post on EqualityOnTrial.com by commenter Jeff_Calif, an employee of the clerk’s office at 10:25 Pacific time said that the office would not be issuing licenses.  Christine Allen, of the national LGBT advocacy organization Marriage Equality USA, told EqualityOnTrial that she subsequently spoke with a woman at the clerk’s office and was told that the office had not received final word from its legal counsel as to whether or not the office should approve licenses for same-sex couples.  Allen, who did not obtain the woman’s name or position, was told to call back later in the day.  She alerted her organization’s legal director; Marriage Equality USA also contacted Fernando Lopez of the ACLU of Southern California, who investigated further.

At shortly after 1:00 p.m. Pacific time, Whistleblower posted that he had spoken with a woman named Virginia at the clerk’s office and was told the county was issuing licenses for same-sex couples.  EqualityOnTrial spoke with the same woman, whose full name is Virginia Wong, and received the same information.  EqualityOnTrial later confirmed this information with the San Francisco City Attorney’s office, who had received confirmation from Attorney General Harris’s office.

Update 2 (2:35 Pacific)Imperial Valley Press has also confirmed that the county clerk will be issuing licenses to same-sex couples.  According to the Press, “[t]he office was given direction about an hour ago to move forward with issuing licenses.”

Imperial County has been involved in the Prop 8 case since the litigation began: the county’s Board of Supervisors and then-Deputy/Clerk/Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriages Isabel Vargas filed a motion in 2009 seeking to intervene in the Perry suit in a San Francisco district court, arguing that the named defendants (the clerks of Los Angeles and Alameda counties) were not adequately defending the marriage equality ban.  In his ruling invalidating Prop 8, Judge Vaughn Walker also turned down Imperial County’s request.

The county later appealed Judge Walker’s decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which dismissed Imperial’s action for lack of standing.  Last February, the current county clerk, Chuck Storey, filed a brief seeking intervenor status with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which was considering Walker’s decision.  His decision was quickly denied by the appellate court.

This is a developing story–check back for updates.

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