Though the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide on Friday morning, Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court Jon Gegenheimer said his office would not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until he got the go-ahead from his in-house legal counsel.
John Litchfield, the attorney for the parish clerk of court, said he understands there could be same-sex couples in Jefferson who are eager to learn whether they can move forward with their marriage plans in the parish. So he said he will finish reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision and render an opinion on it to Gegenheimer no later than Monday.
Gegenheimer said his office would nonetheless begin accepting marriage license applications for same-sex couples, even if it wouldn’t immediately issue the licenses to them.
By a 5-4 vote Friday, the Supreme Court found that same-sex couples nationwide have the right to marry.
But there is a roughly three-week period in which the Supreme Court can be asked to reconsider its ruling. During that period, Gegenheimer said, Litchfield will parse the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision on behalf of the parish clerk of court’s office, which in the meantime will also consult with the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association.
“A little dust has to settle,” Gegenheimer said at his office in Gretna on Friday. “We are not going to do anything until we hear from our counsel, who is reviewing everything.”
Unlike in other places across the country, there wasn’t much activity at the marriage license desk in the parish courthouse in Gretna in the several hours following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision. At about 12:15 p.m., Gegenheimer said no member of a same-sex couple had shown up to apply for a marriage-license.
The parish’s marriage license offices in Gretna on the West Bank and in Elmwood on the East Bank will close for the weekend at 4:30 p.m.
Louisiana is in a strange position legally following the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. Most federal judges had already ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage ran afoul of the U.S. Constitution. But last year, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans upheld Louisiana’s same-sex marriage ban.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing Feldman’s ruling. Gegenheimer said he believed it was important for his office to eventually get clarity on that topic and others, but he would ultimately take his lead from Litchfield.
Gegenheimer also said he was awaiting instructions on how to alter the parish marriage license applications, which still had the words “bride” and “groom” on them Friday.
“We’re not going to turn people away from the courthouse,” Gegenheimer said about his office’s beginning to accept same-sex marriage applications. “But we will wait to hear from our counsel before issuing anything.”