Instructor Carol Lei paced back and forth in front of her 30 pupils inside a San Francisco City Hall meeting room, pointing out the less-than-glamorous aspects of a wedding ceremony.
“Current last name of either spouse, last name of either spouse given at birth,” Lei said, dryly referring to a screen with a blown-up projection of a marriage license.
If the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down California’s Prop 8, there will be lots of these licenses floating around city hall. And Lei’s students would become a volunteer army of deputy clerks helping the city officiate the expected crush of nuptials.
“We anticipate that it could be as much as 200 people who come down to city hall,” said San Francisco County Administrator Naomi Kelly. “We just want to make sure that anyone who wants to get married on that day can.”
To prepare, the city is training dozens of volunteers to become deputy clerks. The volunteers are made-up of mostly of city employees giving up time to learn everything from how to administer vows to inputting legal data into city computers. Some will work as greeters, helping the betrothed navigate the winding matrimonial process.
The city has a bit of practice in these matters; it hosted dozens of impromptu weddings in 2004 and during 99 days in 2008, when same-sex marriage was briefly legal, the city issued 5,300 marriage licenses.
“We had people from all over the world coming to get married and lines around city hall,” said Scott Oswalt, a trainee who normally works for the city’s 3-1-1 line. “So it was an exciting time.”
Along with adding staff, San Francisco plans to extend its hours to make sure all the “I dos” get said and recorded.
“If they allow these marriages to continue,” said Kelly, “we want to be able to marry people immediately.”
Not all the volunteers will be slipping into black priestly robes to officiate weddings. Some will end-up perched in front of antiquated city hall computers, double-checking licenses to make sure names are correct and nothing’s amiss.
“Even though those who are officiating are reading the vows and that sort of thing,” said trainee Jenny Ware. “I just think we’re doing the little stuff that’s behind it.”
While Ware hoped she’d get to administer vows, her friend Samantha Silvia was content staying in the background.
“I get all choked up during ceremonies,” said Silvia. “So I feel officiating wouldn’t be that great of a job for me.”
San Francisco hoped to train 50 volunteers before the Supreme Court potentially releases its decision, which is expected by the end of June. San Francisco’s city attorney believes that if the Supreme Court strikes down Prop 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriages, there would be a 30-day period before the marriages could begin.
In the meantime, Lei instructed her trainees on how to look for White-Out marks on a license (a no-no) and how to spot an incorrect name changes. No one said marriage was all bouquets and banquets.