County accepts same-sex marriage applications

Wagenius

Wagenius

Washington County began accepting marriage license applications earlier this month from same-sex couples who want to wed on Aug. 1, when same-sex marriages become legal in Minnesota.

Jennifer Wagenius, director of the county’s Property Record and Taxpayer Services Department, said her office started accepting marriage license applications from same-sex couples the same day Ramsey and Hennepin counties began accepting similar applications.

“We are currently accepting applications from same-sex couples and the license is valid Aug. 1. We started accepting them June 6 along with Hennepin and Ramsey counties,” she said.

Marriage license requirements are the same for all couples, according to Wagenius. There is a five-day waiting period between obtaining an license application and a couple’s wedding date and applications are good for six months, she said.

The state charges two fees for a marriage license — $115 or $40 if a couple completes 12 hours of pre-marital counseling, Wagenius added.

Due to the five-day waiting period, Wagenius said any same-sex couple wanting to marry Aug. 1 must apply for a marriage license before July 26.

“I believe we had three (same-sex couples) applicants on the first day,” she said.
But Wagenius stressed the county will not track the number of same-sex marriage license applicants. The county only tracks the total number of marriage licenses issued, she said.

“We would just consider them marriage license applicants,” she said.

Wagenius said couples can apply for marriage licenses at county service centers in Stillwater, Woodbury, Cottage Grove and Forest Lake and receive the paperwork one of two ways.

“They can apply for a license at the service centers and then can have it mailed to them or pick it up at the Government Center,” she said.

After a couple is married, the license is signed by the ceremony official, the couple and two witnesses and returned to the PRTS office at the Government Center, Wagenius said.

“The license is returned to our office and we issue a marriage certificate,” she said.
Wagenius added that state law allows the five-day waiting period between obtaining a marriage license application and the wedding to be waived for emergency or extraordinary circumstances.

“There is a waiver of the five-day waiting period if authorized by a judge of the district court,” she said.

As Washington County quietly began accepting marriage license applications from same-sex couples this month, gay-rights supporters cheered two U.S. Supreme Court decisions announced Wednesday — one a 5-4 ruling that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the other, another 5-4 ruling, that overturned California’s Proposition 8 against same-sex marriage.

DOMA was enacted in 1996 and prohibited federal recognition of same-sex unions, in effect, denying same-sex couples federal marriage benefits afforded to heterosexual couples.

Regarding DOMA, the high court ruled in a decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy that “DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of the person that is protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.”

Congresswoman Betty McCollum praised the ruling as a “victory for love and equality over blatant discrimination.”

“This ruling will afford legally married same-sex couples all of the federal rights and benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples,” she said. “For same-sex couples who will soon be married in Minnesota, this decision is a victory for equality. (The) Supreme Court decision will restore the equality under federal law of all state recognized marriages.”

Sixth District U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann was critical of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding DOMA.

“For thousands of years of recorded human history, no society has defended the legal standard of marriage as anything other than between man and woman,” Bachmann said. “Only since 2000 have we seen a redefinition of this foundational unit of soceity in various nations. (Wednesday), the U.S. Supreme Court decided to join the trend, despite the clear will of the people’s representatives through DOMA. What the court has done will undermine the best interest of children and the best interests of the United States.”

Contact Erik Sandin at erik.sandin@ecm-inc.com

Visit www.co.washington.mn.us and click on the “Property and Taxation” link for information about obtaining a marriage license application and other services offered by the PRTS Department.

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