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Senator Scott Wilk. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Bill To Allow City Officials To Issue Marriage Licenses Introduced In Senate

Current law only allows County clerks to issue marriage licenses in California

By Evan Symon, February 15, 2023 12:10 pm

A bill that would allow city officials to issue marriage licenses in addition to the county clerk was introduced in the Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 489, authored by Senator Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita), would officially authorize city officials to issue marriage licenses. This would expand current state law greatly, as existing law requires parties, before entering a marriage or declaring a marriage to first obtain a marriage license from the county clerk.

Senator Wilk wrote the bill to simplify the marriage license process and to make it closer to travel to for those seeking licenses. While exact locations in cities where licenses could be obtained were not mentioned in the bill, Wilk noted on Wednesday that local city halls would be a location for marriage licenses if SB 489 is passed.

“Valentine’s Day felt like the perfect time to introduce this bill and simplify the marriage license process,” Senator Wilk said in a statement on Wednesday. “Instead of having to drive practically all the way down to Disneyland, under this bill your local city hall would be your one-stop-shop for all your marriage license needs. This bill will make it easier to say ‘I do’ to that special someone. One less excuse for those of you dragging your feet – sorry!”

City Hall employees who could be affected by SB 489 noted on Wednesday that while some details would need to be worked out, such as having a system put into place to alert the county clerk of new licenses, it would generally be positive for cities to be allowed to issue marriage licenses directly.

“I can see a few kinks  right now in this bill,” Jesse Robinson, a staffer for a city hall in Los Angeles County whose department would likely have to deal with the new licenses, told the Globe on Wednesday. “Amendments would need to clarify what city buildings and departments can issue these. A lot of functions are more spread out nowadays, with some things now being offered in libraries. So maybe limit it to City Hall or other administrative buildings.”

“We’ll also need to put in place some sort of system to let the County clerk know. You don’t want a couple to accidently file a few licenses or anything like that. And then there’s the matter of other little things, like fees. Right now in LA County it can cost close to $100 per license. Under the bill, would the county still get that, or would the city get a share? Or would the city be allowed to tack on an extra fee? And moreover, who exactly would be authorized to approve these licenses? These aren’t insurmountable questions, but these would need clarification.”

“But, on the whole, this is good. Driving from the boonies to Los Angeles in LA County or to San Bernardino from the hinterlands of San Bernardino County, or navigating those twisted roads up in NorCal, you know, they can be all day affairs for many to get a license. Not everywhere can be like San Francisco, where you never really have to leave the city. It can be a hassle to get to the County seat, like the Senator said. This way, it is a lot more convenient. This isn’t something you can just do online. Even during COVID, this was something you had to visit the clerk for. So this is great as long as we get those questions smoothed out.”

As of Wednesday, there is no opposition to the bill.

SB 489 is expected to be assigned to Senate committees soon.

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Evan Symon
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