Federal Judge To Louisiana: Make Gay Marriage Changes Now

By JANET McCONNAUGHEY

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - After waiting about as long as possible, the state of Louisiana began selling marriage licenses to same-sex couples and agreed July 2 that they could file joint income-tax returns and get both parents' names on their children's birth certificates.

Although most parish clerks of court had been selling same-sex marriage licenses since June 29, the state Office of Vital Records, which sells most marriage licenses in New Orleans, didn't do so until July 2. That office is part of the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

The records office, along with the Department of Revenue, waited until U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman threw out his earlier decision in several consolidated Louisiana cases. Feldman had been among a few federal judges who previously had upheld state laws against gay marriage.

Feldman's order was largely procedural, since the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled six days earlier that marriage is a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. On July 1, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his earlier ruling in several consolidated cases.

The state health and revenue departments said in news releases emailed July 2 that they are complying.

In addition to filing new joint returns, "married same-sex taxpayers may amend prior state returns," the Department of Revenue noted. Taxpayers in Louisiana can amend state returns within three years of the filing deadline for the original tax return or two years from the tax payment, whichever is later.

Married same-sex couples also will be able to get both of their names on their children's birth certificates, whether the child is adopted or born to one member of the couple, said Kyle Duncan, attorney for the Department of Health and Hospitals. It will continue not doing so for unmarried couples, whether heterosexual or same-sex, he said.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration had recommended waiting 25 days after the Supreme Court ruling to act on the Supreme Court's decision, but most parish clerks of court began doing so June 29, and virtually all had done so by July 1.

The state holdout didn't prevent same-sex marriages from being conducted in New Orleans - Louisiana's first gay marriage was June 29 in Orleans Parish Civil District Court after the couple got their license in neighboring Jefferson Parish.

"I am so very pleased that Gov. Jindal's continued attempts at scoring points with Iowa voters were ignored by clerks of court, who continued to comply and implement the Supreme Court ruling this week," said Chris Otten, chair of the Forum for Equality Louisiana, a plaintiff in the suit. "The clerks, not Gov. Jindal, show the true spirit of Louisiana."

Jindal, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, is currently campaigning in Iowa.

Red River Parish was about the only parish which was not writing same-sex marriage licenses by July 2, Clerk of Court Stuart Shaw said that afternoon, "We are going to abide by the laws of the state and the United States government."

The head of Louisiana State Police said earlier that members of same-sex couples who want their married name on their driver's licenses can make that change starting Monday.

Col. Mike Edmonson said computers had to be reprogrammed to change men's last names and to check the changes with Social Security records.

People changing their names need to bring in their certified marriage license and proof that they've changed the name in Social Security records, he said. Those will provide information state police need for the computer check.

Replacement four-year licenses cost $13; the new six-year license is $17.


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