SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - California counties can issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning June 17, the state said in a directive issued Wednesday.

The state Office of Vital Records said it chose June 17 because the state Supreme Court has until the close of business on June 16 to decide whether to grant a stay of its May 15 ruling legalizing gay marriage.

Gay rights advocates and some clerks initially thought couples would be able to wed as early as Saturday, June 14—exactly 30 days after the court's ruling, when its decisions typically take effect.

But a group opposed to gay marriage has asked the court to stay its decision until after the November election, when voters are likely to face a ballot initiative that would once again define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Passage of the initiative would overrule the Supreme Court.

Under the Supreme Court's regular rules of procedure, justices have until the end of the day on June 16 to rule on the stay request, according to the memo sent by e-mail to the state's 58 county clerks. Lawyers involved in the marriage case have said previously the court could grant itself an extra 60 days to consider the stay.

The guidelines from Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health, also contained copies of new marriage forms that include lines for "Party A" and "Party B" instead of bridge and groom. The gender-neutral nomenclature was developed in consultation with county clerks, according to the letter.

"Effective June 17, 2008, only the enclosed new forms may be issued for the issuance of marriage licenses in California," the directive reads.
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On my birthday, of all days. We need a puke smilie.