County OKs Marriage License “Fee Holiday”

A proposal giving authority to the Washtenaw County clerk/register of deeds office to reduce the fee for expediting marriage licenses under certain circumstances – from $50 to 1 cent – was approved by the county board of commissioners at its Feb. 19, 2014 meeting. The vote was 5-1, with dissent by Kent Martinez-Kratz. Three commissioners – Felicia Brabec (D-District 4) Alicia Ping (R-District 3), and Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) – were absent.

Currently, the $50 fee is charged if applicants want to waive the statutory three-day marriage license waiting period. The resolution passed on Feb. 19 allows the county clerk, consulting with the county administrator, to establish a ”fee holiday” on the day preceding a period during which the office’s vital records division would be closed for four or more days, or when an unusual number of marriage license applicants are expected to appear. During a “fee holiday,” the charge for immediately processing a marriage license would be 1 cent.

County clerk/register of deed Larry Kestenbaum told commissioners that last year, he had publicly stated his intent to waive marriage license fees when there was an expectation that a federal judge would strike down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriages. Kestenbaum said his authority to do that was subsequently challenged, and he wanted to address that in part through this resolution. State law requires that a fee set by the county board must be charged.

Martinez-Kratz objected to the change, saying that fees should be applied equally to all applicants – whatever the amount. He also didn’t think the criteria for applying the waiver was clear.

According to a staff memo, waivers of the waiting period are requested between 5-15 times each month. Without a waiver, marriage licenses cost $20 per couple for Michigan residents, and $30 per couple for out-of-state residents – but the marriage must occur within Washtenaw County. More information is available on the county’s website.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]