Published: Tuesday, Sep. 21st, 2021
Legislators in California have taken the next step to ensure access to remote civil ceremonies and virtual appointments for marriage licenses during the next two years. New provisions for each, outlined in Assembly Bill 583, were passed in the Senate and Assembly and have been sent to Governor Newsom for review.
Currently, remote civil ceremonies and virtual marriage license appointments are only permitted in California at the discretion of the county clerk, under temporary Executive Orders first issued in March, 2020.
If signed into law, AB583 would formally extend these permissions through January 1, 2024, allowing a county clerk to issue a marriage license or solemnize or witness a marriage ceremony using remote technology (except for the marriage of a minor). Remote technology refers to video conference platforms that have become essential over the last year and a half of the coronavirus pandemic, such as Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet.
Under AB583, both of the applicants for a marriage license must be physically located in the State of California during their virtual appointment with the clerk, and the couple must be in the same physical location in the State during their marriage ceremony. Witnesses to the marriage and the clerk solemnizing the ceremony can join from another location, as long as they are physically located within the State.
Based on AMM’s reading of this new law, it would only allow county clerks to perform civil ceremonies remotely, and does not extend to ministers and other wedding officiants.
These changes to the state’s Code would help engaged couples plan their virtual weddings well in advance, without the need to keep a watchful eye on unpredictable and changing orders.
Legislators note the “foreseeable impacts on mobility caused by ongoing wildfires” as well as the unpredictable nature of the current pandemic in their recommendation for immediate adoption of the new laws.
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PART 5. Remote Marriage License Issuance and Solemnization
550. Notwithstanding any other law, including, but not limited to, Section 420, a county clerk may issue a marriage license, including a confidential marriage license, or solemnize or witness a marriage ceremony under state law using remote technology pursuant to this part, except for a marriage of a minor, as set forth in Sections 302 to 304, inclusive, or any successor provisions.
552. A couple seeking a marriage license or solemnization pursuant to this part shall present, in the manner requested by the county clerk, a copy of a valid government-issued photo identification to verify their identity and any additional documentary proof requested by the county clerk.
554. (a) Each member of the couple shall be physically located in the State of California while using remote technology to obtain a marriage license pursuant to this part.
(b) (1) Each member of the couple shall be in the same physical location in the State of California while using remote technology to solemnize their marriage pursuant to this part.
(2) The person solemnizing the marriage, any necessary witnesses, and the county clerk shall all be physically located in the State of California, but may be at separate physical locations from each other and the couple solemnizing their marriage.
(c) The county clerk may require a couple to complete an affidavit, in a form provided by the county clerk, affirming that they and each individual participating in a marriage solemnization using remote technology are physically present within the State of California in compliance with this part.
556. (a) At the discretion of the county clerk, a couple applying for a marriage license using remote technology may sign their marriage license electronically or by original wet signature. The couple shall transmit a signed, legible copy of their marriage license by United States mail, fax, or electronic means directly to the county clerk, in the manner required by the county clerk.
(b) At the discretion of the county clerk, a marriage license issued using the procedure described in this part may be transmitted to the applicants by United States mail, fax, or electronic means.
(c) Before the solemnization of a marriage pursuant to this part, one or both of the parties to be married shall transmit the marriage license by United States mail, fax, or electronic means to the person solemnizing the marriage and any necessary witnesses, in the manner required by the county clerk.
(d) At the discretion of the county clerk, the person solemnizing the marriage or any necessary witnesses may sign the marriage license electronically or by original wet signature and transmit the signed marriage license by United States mail, fax, or electronic means, in the manner required by the county clerk.
(e) A county clerk who witnesses a marriage solemnized by someone other than the county clerk using remote technology may apply an electronic signature to the marriage license as a witness, and transmit the signed license to the person solemnizing the marriage by United States mail, fax, or electronic means.
558. A county clerk may provide guidance relating to marriage license applications, marriage license issuance, and the witnessing or solemnizing of the marriage ceremony when the guidance relates to the use of their remote technology pursuant to this part.
560. For purposes of this part, “remote technology” means audio video technology that is provided by a county clerk and allows the couple, or the couple and others participating in a marriage solemnization, as applicable, to appear together from the same physical location and directly interact with each other and the county clerk.
562. This part shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2024, and as of that date is repealed.
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