Under a new executive order, couples seeking marriage licenses may get them remotely rather than be required to appear in person at San Francisco City Hall. (Amanda Peterson/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Wedding bells to ring in San Francisco via videoconference

New executive order allows for filing marriage licenses remotely

San Francisco expects to begin processing marriages remotely this week following the passage of a new state executive order legalizing remote marriages in the midst of the shelter-in-place, said Bill Barnes, spokesperson for the Office of the City Administrator.

The 60-day state executive order, signed Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, allows couples to remotely obtain their license at the discretion of a county clerk, hold a ceremony and file a record of the marriage with their local Office of the Assessor-Recorder. Although some California counties, including Orange and Sacramento, already have allowed remote marriages, that hasn’t been the case in the Bay Area, Barnes said.

Under the new order, a couple must hold a videoconference with a county clerk and present identification to obtain an electronic license through email, according to the Governor’s Press Office. The couple may hold a ceremony via teleconference, with at least one witness to solemnize the marriage. The proceedings then would be filed with the Assessor-Recorder’s Office.

In San Francisco, officials already took notice of the need to marry. Around 20 couples sought The City’s help in getting married with urgency during the crisis due to reasons relating to military deployment, health care and immigration.

As a result, The City already was taking steps toward declaring marriage, at a distance, an essential service, Barnes said.

Going forward, with the new executive order, in-person marriages will no longer be required during the crisis, Barnes said.

Previously, San Francisco continued accepting some reservations online and through 311 toward completing preliminary steps for a marriage license, including processing payments and other paperwork. However, it was unable to provide the services due to the closure of City Hall, Barnes said.

He added that The City will extend its online marriage services to residents of other cities when possible.

Madeline Schatzberg, who rents in the Mission, might take The City up on the opportunity.

She would have married her partner of two years at the Marin Civic Center on Friday if not for the pandemic. A self-employed litigation consultant, she pays a brutal $500 a month for her health insurance, she said — an amount she’d pay a fraction of if included under her partner’s insurance.

She said she and her partner would definitely be open to a remote marriage.

“Overall, we’re sad, but we have each other,” she said. “We are very lucky to be safe and employed in this difficult time. The actual date we get married won’t matter, because we are in it for the long haul.”


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