City and Town Clerks Prepare For Same-Sex Marriage

Aug 1, 2013

Same sex marriage becomes the law of the state today Thursday.  City and town clerks are well trained in the new law but don’t have any idea what kind of volume they’ll be dealing with.

State registrars prepare to issue licenses to same-sex couples August 1st.

State registrar Colleen Fontana has been working overtime instructing city and town clerks in the new law guaranteeing marriage rights to same sex couples. The new forms – giving couples the option of calling themselves ‘bride,’ ‘groom,’ or ‘spouse’ are printed. Now it’s just a waiting game to see how many people show up to apply today.   Fontana said there’s just no way of knowing.

“Oh I think there’s a lot of excitement out there because we don’t know what to expect. So I think the not knowing is where the excitement is – to see what will happen between Thursday and Friday. After that I think it will all blend in with business as usual,” said Fontana.

Fontana says the 88 Rhode Island couples who have engaged in civil unions in the past two years have three options. They can remain in a civil union but enjoy all the legal benefits of marriage. They can convert their civil union to a marriage. Or they can get married and have their civil union merged with the marriage license.

Fontana said city and town clerks are braced for an onslaught of applicants but have no idea how many people will actually show up to apply for marriage licenses.  There’s some anxiety, she says, in city and town halls that clerks will be overwhelmed by business.

"The thing is you have a staff to handle your normal business as usual and I’m not so sure it’s so easy to accommodate for the influx of number of marriage applicants at one time," said Fontana.

Fontana says on a typical day it usually takes no more than a half hour to get a marriage license in Rhode Island – and it can be used right away to tie the knot.

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