Q: May same-sex couples legally marry anywhere in California?

A: Yes. The Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision applies everywhere in California and every jurisdiction of every state, territory, and possession of the United States. No public official may deny a same-sex couple the right to marry.


Q: What is required for a same-sex couple to marry in California?

A: To marry in this state, partners must obtain a marriage license from the office of the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk of any county in California, and then a ceremony must be performed by someone authorized to perform weddings in this state (someone like a judge or clergy member) within ninety days of obtaining the marriage license.

Both partners must appear together at the county office, complete the marriage license application, and present a government-issued picture ID and proof that they are both over 18 years old. (If either or both partners are under 18, it’s slightly more complicated.) Some California counties post wedding license applications online so that couples can complete the form in advance. The license fees vary by county, but in California, a marriage license is usually under a hundred dollars. No blood tests or health certificates are needed.

California marriage license is valid for ninety days, and the wedding may be performed anywhere in the state. The person who conducts the ceremony must be authorized to solemnize marriages in California,State and must complete and sign the marriage license after the ceremony. At least one witness age 18 or above must also sign the marriage license. The license then becomes a marriage certificate, which must be returned to the same county office where it was obtained within the first ten days after the ceremony.

Q: Who can solemnize marriages in California?

A: The persons who are legally authorized to solemnize marriage ceremonies in California include: clergy members; active and retired state court judges, court commissioners, and assistant commissioners; commissioners of civil marriages or retired commissioners of civil marriage; justices or retired justices of the U.S. Supreme Court or judges, magistrate judges, retired judges, or retired magistrate judges of other federal courts; state legislators or constitutional officers of the state; and members of Congress who represent a district within this state.

Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners of Civil Marriages perform civil marriage ceremonies by appointment at designated county offices. There is a fee, although in most California counties it is under fifty dollars. A couple may also have a friend “deputized” to perform their marriage ceremony through a county “Deputy Commissioner for a Day” program. The specific requirements vary by county.


Q: Is there any reason a same-sex couple should not get married?

A: Marriage is a solemn legal and personal commitment. Before a wedding ceremony, couples should learn all that they can about the legal consequences of marriage. Everyone considering marriage needs to deliberate cautiously and thoughtfully about the decision. People receiving particular government benefits – especially SSI disability payments, TANF, or Medicaid – should learn how those benefits will be affected by marriage. Before saying “I do” in southern California, it’s wise to consult with an experienced Orange County family law attorney about the impact a marriage will have on your life.

Q: Is a marriage license a public record?

A: Marriage licenses are public records, but in California,State, couples – if they are both age 18 or older – may also request a “confidential” marriage license. Persons other than the spouses may acquire a copy of a confidential marriage license only by obtaining a court order. A confidential marriage license may be an ideal option for couples who have reasons to keep their private and personal business private and personal.

Q: What happens if a same-sex couple marries in California and they later wish to divorce?

A: Before filing a divorce petition in California,State, at least one spouse must be a resident of the state of California for at least six months and a resident of the county in which the divorce is filed for at least three months. A divorce in Southern California should be handled by an experienced Orange County family law attorney.

Q: If a same-sex couple in California married before Proposition Eight went into effect, is the marriage valid or does the couple need to get married again?

If a same-sex couple married in California between June 16, 2008, and November 5, 2008, the marriage is still valid and recognized by the state of California. In 2009, the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition Eight would have no impact on same-sex marriages conducted prior to Proposition Eight’s passage. No one needs to get re-married.

Q: If a same-sex couple has married legally in another state or nation, does California recognize the marriage, or should the couple remarry in California?

A: All couples who legally marry in another jurisdiction are recognized as married in California as well. There is no need for any couple to remarry in California.


Q: Are couples registered as domestic partners in California automatically married?

No. Registered domestic partners must decide whether or not to marry. Those who wish to marry must go through the same formal steps that are required for any couple planning to marry in California,State.

Q: Will registered domestic partnerships in California continue to exist?

A: Yes. Registered domestic partnerships still exist under current California law.


Q: Does an existing domestic partnership have to be dissolved before a same-sex couple can marry in California?

A: No. The California domestic partnership law permits an individual to be in both a marriage and in a registered domestic partnership simultaneously, provided both relationships are with the same person.

Q: Can you marry someone if you are in a civil union or a registered domestic partnership with a different person?

A: Before an individual in a civil union or a registered domestic partnership can marry another person; the previous legal relationship must be terminated. If you are in a civil union or a registered domestic partnership with another person, any marriage to a second person will be considered legally invalid.

Q: May out-of-state same-sex couples marry in California?

A: Absolutely! Come and enjoy our state. There is no residency requirement to marry in California,State.

By: Bayati Brian

Brian A. Bayati has been named three times as a top Orange County divorce attorney by OC Metro Magazine. He graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where he was a judicial extern to the U.S. Court of Appeals (9th Circuit) and a public service mediator. Prior to founding Bayati Law Group, he was part of a civil litigation firm with offices across the nation. Bayati Law Group focuses exclusively on the practice of family law.