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Monday, February 05, 2007

Clerk protests gay marriage ban
Activists hail symbolic move in Yolo; critics decry 'stunt'
By Jim Sanders - Bee Capitol Bureau

Yolo County Clerk-Recorder Freddie Oakley plans to present "certificates of inequality" to same-sex pairs on Valentine's Day. She says she designed the certificates to ease her soul over having to deny marriage licenses to gays and lesbians. Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

In a slap at California's ban on gay marriage, the elected official who oversees civil marriages in Yolo County will distribute "certificates of inequality" to same-sex couples on Valentine's Day.

Freddie Oakley, Yolo's clerk-recorder, said she designed the certificates herself as a way to ease her soul over having to deny marriage licenses to gays and lesbians.

"We don't discriminate against people on the basis of age, or health, or disability, or race, or ethnicity, or religion, but we do on the basis of gender in this matter," she said. "I feel it's inappropriate."

Oakley's "certificate of inequality" claims that California wrongly deprives gays and lesbians of the right to marry.

"I issue this Certificate of Inequality to you because your choice of marriage partner displeases some people whose displeasure is, apparently, more important than principles of equality," it reads.

Gay marriage has prompted long, heated political fights nationwide.

The constitutionality of California's current law banning gay marriage is pending before the state Supreme Court.

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, recently reintroduced legislation to legalize gay marriage after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the idea in 2005.

Critics blasted Oakley for planning to distribute from a public building -- her Woodland office -- a document that criticizes state law.

"The people pay government officials to implement the law and to faithfully execute the law ... not to ridicule the law and perform stunts that advocate the overthrow of marriage," said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, which lobbies on social issues.

Thomasson accused the Yolo clerk of violating her oath of office to "well and faithfully discharge the duties" of a county clerk.

Oakley will distribute the certificate on Feb. 14 in conjunction with an annual event, "Freedom to Marry Day," in which same-sex couples appear at county clerks' offices nationwide seeking to marry.

Oakley said there is no "governmental virtue" to...

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