California Revises Controversial Marriage License

Bride and groom are back on the license after the state was deluged by complaints.

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SAN FRANCISCO—Health officials in California announced this week that they had revised the state's controversial marriage license, putting the words "bride" and "groom" back in the documents after being deluged by complaints from both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

When the State Supreme Court declared a state ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in May, California marriage licenses were immediately changed to become gender-neutral. The words "bride" and "groom" were replaced with "Party A" and "Party B." Though most polls show a small majority of likely voters in the state continue to support the right of same-sex couples to marry, many couples protested the move, saying they wanted to have the option to define themselves in the traditional way.

Suanne Buggy, a spokesperson for the state's Department of Public Health, told reporters this week that her agency thought it was required by law to change the state's marriage certificates after the court's ruling. Several months later, though, officials realized they could find a way to compromise.

Starting November 17, the state's marriage licenses will have two blank spaces for applicants' names. One member of the soon-to-be-married couple will fill out his or her name and personal information in a section marked "First Person Data," while the other will include his or her information in the "Second Person Data" section. Both sections will include optional check boxes where couples can put a check next to the word "bride" or "groom." This will allow same-sex couples to check the same title, if they choose to, while giving opposite-sex couples the opportunity to check different boxes. The California Department of Public Health has a series of sample forms on its website.

An initiative on the ballot next month will allow voters in the state to decide whether they want to overturn the State Supreme Court's decision and ban gay marriage.