If the U.S. Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples have the right to marry, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir plans to be ready.
The clerk’s office, which issues and records marriage licenses, plans to offer extended evening and weekend hours to accommodate the pent-up demand from gay and lesbian couples who have been unable to marry under state law.
“We’re hoping for crowds,” said DeBeauvoir, a strong supporter of same-sex marriage.
When the Supreme Court issues its ruling — expected by the end of June, when the court typically finishes its term — a team of lawyers from the county attorney’s office will scour the decision to determine its implications for Travis County.
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If the ruling allows, the goal is to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as quickly as possible.
Plans include setting up special areas in the clerk’s office dedicated to marriage licenses and offering extended office hours dedicated to serving those seeking a marriage license. The hours and availability of marriage licenses will be updated on the clerk’s website.
County officials also expect couples to drive to Austin from all over the state, particularly those living in counties that haven’t prepared for the court ruling.
About 23,200 same-sex Texas couples can be expected to say “I do” within three years of a favorable Supreme Court decision, generating $180 million in economic activity, according to a 2014 report by the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law’s Williams Institute.
Austin, with a vibrant gay community, could expect to see a healthy percentage of that activity.
County officials caution, however, that they would prefer marriage ceremonies to take place away from the county clerk’s office to allow for smoother processing of license requests.
Plans for the court’s decision day already include a 6 p.m. event at Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Austin, where marriages will be performed if allowed by the ruling.
“We will gather whether or not couples can get married,” but the hope is to celebrate as many weddings as possible, said Nick Hudson with Texas for Marriage.
After a license is issued, there is a 72-hour waiting period before a couple can marry. The wait can be waived by a district judge, however, and plans are being formed to expedite access to judges for couples who don’t want to delay their wedding.
Gay-marriage advocates also have been searching for other locations, staffed by clergy and public officials, to perform weddings for couples who want to exchange rings as quickly as possible.
Those arrangements are still being worked out, said Glen Maxey, a longtime leader in Austin’s gay community.
“I’m trying to find a place for marriages, but not knowing what day we can start” has complicated the search for a rented location, he said.
Gay-rights supporters also are planning an evening party on West Fourth Street in downtown Austin if the Supreme Court allows same-sex marriage.
Texas’ ban on gay marriage was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in February 2014, but implementation of the ruling was delayed while Texas challenged the decision — an appeal that continues.
In the meantime, a spate of federal court rulings overturned similar bans across the nation, leaving Texas among only 13 states that continue to prohibit same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court is reviewing bans in four of those states.
Earlier this year, Texas Republicans introduced more than a dozen bills designed to preserve the state’s gay-marriage ban no matter how the court rules. None of the measures passed in the legislative session that ended Monday.