Arizona Lesbian Couple Gets Marriage License from Clerk– Accused of Fraud

sheri_abigail_license-smallAs part of this week’s Marriage Equality demonstration, two lesbians, identified as Theresa and Sherri, saddled up to the Pima County Clerk of the Court’s Office in Arizona asking for a marriage license–and to everyone’s surprise, they got it. The two women did not change the pre-printed application’s “male/female” gender boxes, though the couple maintain that they were both clearly women. Superior Court Clerk Patti Noland says she doesn’t ask clerks to verify gender. She says she regards the couple’s application as a fraud.

However, Marriage Equality USA consulted “a local family lawyer who says that the license application in Pima County is not legal as the statute does not require someone to swear to their sex. Therefore, the license should be valid because the form exceeds the statute laying out how the form should be worded.”

We’re dubious the marriage will actually stand, though Sherri and Theresa have apparently rejected the characterization of their marriage as fraud, saying that everything they printed on the form was true. Still you can help watching the confused excitement that ensued outside the Pima County Courthouse yesterday after demonstrators learned that a marriage license had been issued without feeling a sense of the daily injustice that Arizona’s gay marriage band places on LGBT people. We look forward to the day when two loving, committed people can go to the Pima County Courthouse and get a marriage license without setting off furious calls to lawyers and bewilderment and shock.

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  • Alan

    It seems to me that the more the government tries to regulate and limit, the more they are going to be messing up like in this case. Eventually they will have to turn things around and allow everyone the same rights. If not because it is the right thing to do, then because it makes things easier to regulate. Either way, I can’t wait til the day when this bullshit drama about marriage becomes a distant memory.

  • Sebbe

    @Japhy – Arizona has a gay marriage band? kewl. What kinda music do they play? LOL

  • Sebbe

    OMG – I just watched the video. First, cute lesbian couple, I’m sure this isn’t going to go through, but crafty, I like it. Second, what a depressing place to live by the looks of it.

  • Jaroslaw

    Who took this video? Who was who? Someone referenced “cute couple” above – I don’t think the couple appeared on the above video. This video is incomprehsible.

    About halfway through a man’s voice says “the clerk may not have realized when they crossed that off, they invalidated it.” (“they” meaning the city clerk’s office?)

    Then shortly after a woman says “did they get it”?

    Am I on the “Twilight Zone” News channel or Queerty?

  • Jaroslaw

    And one other point I must make – stories like this only reinforce my feeling that law is mostly for lawyers. Common sense says that even though the couple didn’t cross off the pre-printed male/female boxes, they presumably can read or it wouldn’t be mentioned in this story at all. So they knew they were “pulling a fast one” by not crossing that off.

    Next we are told “but the Arizona statute doesn’t require someone to swear to their sex.”

    I’m 100% for marriage & Gay equality; this apparently pre-planned action may give us good publicity in pointing out discrimination. I don’t know. But the fact that the law is so incredibly convoluted and complex is large part of the reason why it takes so long for anything to happen in the first place.

  • Sebbe

    @jaroslaw – i just assumed that woman was the lesbian who applied, but now that I look at the picture above, clearly it is not. Must be like the precinct captain or something. It is a rather weird video though. I just watched it again. What the h*ll is this? My fav is the gentleman giving legal advice.

  • Emily

    What’s with the shoddy camera work? I can’t tell if the (presumably male) cameraperson wasn’t strong enough to hold the camera level, or if he’s just making excuses to zoom in on the girl’s breasts, like he did at the end there!

  • Jaroslaw

    Sebbe – like I said this whole video makes no sense to me. It looks like some kind of pre-planned action.

  • Sebbe

    @jaroslaw – Now that I think about, I guess it was all planned and this is their “support” group that went with the ladies. Presumably the ladies are inside/just finished? Who knows.

  • ConservativeRepublican

    Yes, this was pre-planned, but I don’t think Marriage Equality USA was planning on the couple actually getting a license, so I can understand the excitement. I’m sure it’ll be found invalid by the state courts, but I think actions like this help prove a point.

    Oh, and yes, the video is awful. Compare that to this video of Marriage Equality USA members on the day the California Supreme Court handed down its gay marriage decision: The crowd reactions at around 3:30 are especially tear-inducing. That’s how you do a video.

  • Jaroslaw

    Thanks CR for clearing this up. And Sebbe -we communicate so well, too bad you’re probably half my age and taken… :)

  • Sebbe

    @jaroslaw – LOL, We always seem to be commenting back and forth on the same posts! Well I’m always told I look 17, but I’m 10 years older than that. I like to tell myself it will be a good thing when I’m middle aged, LOL. Yes, I have a boyfriend, but he’s been a real bitch this week. Just kidding, I love him anyways. He’s a great guy. I know he reads this site, but I don’t think he reads the comments because he never says anything about what I write only the post and even though Sebbe is short for Sebastien, that’s what he calls me as well. Maybe he’s just not as smart as I thought he was.

  • Jaroslaw

    thanks Sebbe -it is very enjoyable to interact this way. There is another site hosted by a famous radio host that starts with an S. You should see my interchanges with a couple of them! They are so hard headed and then when I say they have an “all or nothing philosophy” they deny it and get angry & put words in my mouth! I use the same name there – let me know if you go there! :) And I don’t have to agree with those I interact with but we must READ each other’s posts which seemingly doesn’t happen sometimes.

  • Sebbe

    @Jaroslaw – I don’t really post on any other commercial sites. This one is usually from my phone. I’m not sure which radio host your talking about here? Am I totally out of it? I think if you click on my name it will bring you to my blog though. I don’t think anyone reads it that I don’t personally know, and I haven’t posted anything significant this week. But, I find it relaxes me at night when i’m waiting for my man to come home. Plus, its an easy way to keep in contact with friends (I lived a lot of places around the globe). I actually have a really good friend in Stockholm (via Poland) with your name. Your not him right? LOL

  • pirate

    I hope this doesn’t end up with people having to “prove” their gender in order to marry in Arizona… That would be terrible for trans people. (But obviously, I hope they change the law so gay couples can marry too!)

  • Shari

    It’s been several days since we were issued an Arizona marriage license. There have been accusations flying that we committed perjury and got the license illegally. I am not an attorney, but I am certainly able to read the statutes and understand them. Here is the Arizona marriage license statute ARS 25-121.

    25-121. Marriage license; application; affidavit
    A. Persons shall not be joined in marriage in this state until a license has been obtained for that purpose from the clerk of the superior court in any county of this state. This subsection does not apply to the conversion of an existing marriage that is valid in this state to a covenant marriage pursuant to section 25-902.
    B. Persons who wish to marry shall apply to the clerk of the superior court for a license and shall complete and sign under oath an affidavit provided by the clerk that states each applicant’s name, age and residential address. The affidavit shall include a statement by the applicants that they understand that information on sexually transmitted diseases is available from the county health department on request and that these diseases may be transmitted to their unborn children. The applicants shall provide their social security numbers to the clerk separately from the affidavit. The affidavit shall be filed by the clerk who shall then issue to the applicants a license directed to the persons authorized by law to solemnize marriage and shall collect the fee prescribed by section 12-284. The license is sufficient authority for any authorized person to solemnize the marriage. The marriage license shall state that the marriage license expires one year from the date of issuance of the license.
    C. Except for release to the department of economic security for the purpose of child support enforcement, the social security number provided to the clerk of the superior court pursuant to subsection B of this section for an applicant’s marriage license shall not be released to any person or entity unless the applicant requests in writing that the information be released. The provisions of this subsection shall appear in each application for a marriage license.

    No where on the marriage license application form does the applicant write in their gender. You do not circle it, you do not check a box, you do not do anything to indicate your gender. The form is preprinted with gender designations and, none of that matters anyway, because the form goes beyond the scope and language of the law. The law which governs the process of applying for and the issuance of a marriage license in the state of Arizona is the 25-121 statute. No where in this statute is gender indicated much less a specific gender couple dynamic described or required. Read the statute. It says, “Persons who wish to marry shall apply to the clerk of the superior court for a license and shall complete and sign under oath an affidavit provided by the clerk that states each applicant’s name, age and residential address.” It goes on to say that “applicants” will provide their social security number to the clerk and that “applicants” understand that information on sexually transmitted diseases is available with the county health department. And guess what….. These are also the things you swear to. You swear that your name is your name, that you have given the clerk your social security number, that your birth date is your birth date, that you are not related to the person you wish to marry, (excuse me, where do you see that in the statute above?) and, that you are aware that information on sexually transmitted diseases is available with the county health department. Please point out in the above statute where the applicant must indicate their gender and swear to it.

    Statute ARS 25-101 says that, “Marriage between persons of the same sex is void and prohibited.” I would venture a guess that “Void” means, if you are married already, by a license from some other state, then you are not married in Arizona. I would venture a guess that “Prohibited” means, you are not allowed to marry a person of the same gender in Arizona. And so, these two statutes would appear inconsistent with each other. The act of “applying for” a marriage license and the act of “marrying” are two separate acts, governed by two separate statutes.

    There is nothing in ARS 25-121 (the Marriage License statute) that would indicate that same gendered couples can not apply for a marriage license. And, it appears that there is nothing in that statute which allows the state to deny a same gendered couple a license to marry. And, it would appear that a marriage license, is in fact, a license to marry. However, ARS 25-121 says that marriage is prohibited to same sex couples.

    Up to this point, according to the statutes (the laws in Arizona,) as they are written, we have not violated the laws. The question becomes, would we be violating the laws of Arizona if we actually did marry?

    The Gay and Lesbian community in Arizona and maybe the G&L communities across the nation are buzzing about this. We certainly feel that we are under spotlight to commensurate our marriage. We believe that we do have a duty to our sisters and brothers to stand up at times, to try and right the wrongs of our society and the inequalities which handicap each of us, (which we did do on February 13, 2009 when we walked into the county recorder’s office and applied for a marriage license.) However, we have young children and a duty as parents to protect them in everyway. We are not at this time considering violating 25-101 by getting married.

    We ask you, please have faith in our nation’s people, in our courts and in our governments, that these wrongs will be righted, that justice will prevail. Please remember, there was a time when Black Americans where chattel, when American Women and Black Americans were denied the right to vote, when Black Americans and White Americans could not marry (Loving vs. Virginia.) Read the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, Section 1, will be our salvation.
    Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    We will get there. God speed, Shari and Teresa

  • Shari

    My apologies, I meant “Consummate” our marriage, it’s late, I am fatigued as I have composed the above letter.

  • Jaroslaw

    Well Shari, your points are well taken, but I don’t suppose the statute specifically says the application should be written on paper either. I believe a Minnesota law was challenged on a simlar point in the 70’s and the supreme court decided against the same sex couple since the vast majority of family law referred to male/female, husband/wife etc. It was inferred because of this male and female didn’t need to be explicitly mentioned every single time. We’ll see how it plays out in court for you. I wish you well, but again, law is for lawyers, not for the common person.

  • Sebbe

    “because the form goes beyond the scope and language of the law” – false reasoning

    “these two statutes would appear inconsistent with each other. The act of “applying for” a marriage license and the act of “marrying” are two separate acts, governed by two separate statutes.” – false legal reasoning

    While I support you and your struggle. I urge you to consider several things.

    Trying to find “loop holes” in the law is not for the untrained layperson.

    Second, I would urge you, and hopefully your counsel has done the same, to not speak publicly on this matter without the consent and advise of your attorney(s).

    This is not my area of legal expertise, and I agree with you on the constitutionality of the question. Statues (until challenged) are held to a different standard as they are the result of a legislative process.

    I wish you the best of luck and hope you are surrounded by sound and supportive attorneys and friends.

Comments are closed.