- (Photo: Screengrab/Paul Richmond)
First it was conjugal visits, now homosexual prisoners in California can get married.
According to an Associated Press report, California prison officials confirmed that just over a week ago they approved regulations that allow prison inmates to get married to someone of the same sex.
The report noted that Michael Stainer, the director of the adult institutions division for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, issued a memo two Fridays ago highlighting that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that made same-sex marriages legal also applied to prisoners.
"Effective immediately, all institutions must accept and process applications for a same-sex marriage between an inmate and a non-incarcerated person in the community, in the same manner as they do marriages between opposite sex couples," stated the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's memorandum to wardens according to an ABC report.
Stainer notes that gay and bisexual inmates will not be allowed to marry each other due to security concerns. He said inmates will also only be allowed to marry during prison ceremonies.
For the time being, according to ABC, the terminology on the wedding applications will remain the same. "Bride" and "groom" as listed on wedding documentation "shall be interpreted to be gender neutral where necessary (i.e., 'bride' may be a male and 'groom' may be a female in a same-sex marriage)," said the memo.
The memo also pointed out that if the prison Chaplain refuses to perform the gay nuptials on religious grounds, "another person who is lawfully authorized to perform marriages may be substituted."
In June, the Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 decision to uphold a 2010 ruling by United States District Court Judge Vaughn Walker that overturned Proposition 8 in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry.
The court also struck down a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which paved the way for married same-sex couples to receive the same tax, health and retirement benefits available to married heterosexual couples.
"The public is currently engaged in an active political debate over whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry," Chief Justice John Roberts had said in the Supreme Court's opinion on Proposition 8.
"We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to," Roberts continued. "We decline to do so for the first time here."
California also became the first state to allow conjugal visits and overnight stays for inmates with same-sex domestic partners in 2007.