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Tying The Knot In California

Getting Educated

Legal marriage is a serious undertaking and same-sex couples face additional challenges because of disparities between federal and state laws. We always advise couples considering marriage (especially out-of-state couples) to educate themselves about the marriage process first and consider consulting with a lawyer.

** Please note: The information below has changed due to the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Same sex couples may not legally marry in California at this time. **

Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in California: Frequently Asked Questions Compiled by the National Center for Lesbian Rights)

Marriage in California Human Rights Campaign

Getting the License

Before you can get married, you must first obtain a marriage license from the Registrar-Recorder/Assessor/Clerk’s Office of any California County. Most counties’ offer license applications online. For a list of county clerks’ websites, including information about hours, locations, and application fees, click here.

The license application must be completed and submitted in person to the appropriate county clerk’s office. Both partners must appear in person to submit the application and will need to present a valid government-issued picture ID and proof that both partners are over 18.

The application fee is generally under $100. Couples applying for a marriage license are not required to submit a blood test or health certificate.

Getting Legally Married

Once you have your license, you have 90 days to perform your marriage anywhere in the state. The marriage can be performed by clergy members or certain state and county civil servants. Couples also have the option of having a friend “deputized” to perform their marriage ceremony.

Whoever performs the ceremony must complete and sign your license; the license must also be signed by one witness (who must be over 18-years-old).

Once the license has been signed by the officiant and witness, it becomes your marriage certificate. The certificate must be returned to the county in which you obtained the license within 10 days of the marriage ceremony for filing.

Preserving Marriage Equality in California

The Supreme Court of California’s ruling has attracted attention from certain groups who wish to deny same-sex couples the right to legally marry in California. These activists have launched a $10 million campaign to for a constitutional ban on gay marriage in California. California voters will decide this November whether to ban same-sex marriage–effectively reversing the Court’s landmark ruling this May.

We encourage our community and its allies to support HRC’s campaign to fight the constitutional ban. Donate to the HRC’s Equality for All campaign and protect the marriage rights of same-sex couples in California. Or, better yet, make a donation as a favor for your wedding guests or register to support Equality for All rather than household items.

Looking for more information on same sex unions and marriage inother jurisdictions? You can find additional information on our site!