Though it’s widely regarded as the most liberal city in the state, New Orleans will almost certainly be among the last places in Louisiana where same-sex couples will be able to obtain a marriage license.
Orleans Parish is the only parish in the state where marriage licenses are handled directly by the vital records office of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, instead of by independently-elected clerks of court.
Workers in that office have been instructed not to issue licenses to same-sex couples until one of two federal appellate courts certifies the U.S. Supreme Court’s Friday ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. That process could take up to 25 days.
“Currently, they still have to operate until the Louisiana Constitution, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and prohibits us from issuing licenses to same-sex couples,” DHH spokeswoman Olivia Hwang said.
The clerks of court who issue licenses in the other 63 parishes, on the other hand, do not report to DHH and are able to make their own judgements on whether to issue licenses. As a result, unless some parish clerks refuse to issue licenses even after they are told do so by DHH, Orleans will be in the last batch of parishes where a license is issued.
The department’s stance could also create complications for clerks of court who decide to issue licenses, since DHH must record the licenses after they’ve been certified by the clerks. The department will not do so until after they hear from the appellate courts, Hwang said.
Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court Jon Gegenheimer apparently became the state’s first clerk of court to authorize his staff to issue same-sex marriage licenses on Monday. Two women who work in Gegenheimer’s office received what appears to be the first license issued in the state.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.