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House panel extends remote marriage license options

The COVID-19 pandemic may have halted many aspects of life, but it can’t stop love.

HF17 would extend the ability of local registrars to receive and approve of marriage license applications using remote technologies. Tuesday’s unanimous vote in the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee sent the bill to the House Floor.

In April 2020, just as the pandemic hit, lawmakers passed legislation to remove a statutory requirement that two people seeking a marriage license must appear in person before a local registrar to fill out an application and show proof of age and provide other information. That law was set to expire Jan. 15, 2021.

HF17 would extend the provision until May 31, 2021.

Committee chair Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville) sponsors the bill. She said the change would continue to give needed flexibility to local registrars who can now accept electronic filings, mailed or faxed marriage licenses, and allow examination of the parties under oath using audio or video.

Registrars are not required to do so, she said, and can still have in-person options if they abide by current state COVID-19 protocols.

“Although remote processing takes a little longer to process than face-to-face applications, it allows us to meet customer demands and eliminate the potential spread of COVID-19,” said Barbara Olson, regional manager for the Hennepin County Government Center and Ridgedale Service Centers Division.

Brown County Recorder Betti Kamolz noted remote marriage application options are convenient for couples who live out of state and who plan to return to Minnesota just days before a wedding ceremony. For this reason, lawmakers may want to consider making these remote options permanent, she said.

Becker-Finn noted there is not across-the-board agreement among lawmakers about making these remote options permanent, but she said the committee could take up that issue in the future.

For now, it’s important to pass the extension, she said, because these remote options are set to expire in three days. To ensure the remote options are uninterrupted beyond Jan. 15, the bill’s provisions would be effective retroactively from Jan. 1, 2021.

The companion, SF26, sponsored by Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), awaits action by the Senate Civil Law and Data Practices Policy Committee.

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