Kern County Clerk deflects questions on marriage ceremony decision

Kern County Clerk deflects questions on marriage ceremony decision »Play Video
Kern County Auditor-Controller Ann Barnett won't answer questions about her decision to no longer provide civil marriage ceremonies. On Thursday, Barnett gave Eyewitness News a note referring all media inquiries to the media relations director for the Alliance Defense Fund.

Last week, Barnett announced her office no longer had the space nor staff to perform the wedding ceremonies because she anticipated a surge in wedding requests -- in light of the California Supreme Court decision to allow marriage between same-sex couples.

Friday, June 13th is the last day the county clerk's office will perform these ceremonies. On Thursday, Eyewitness News attempted to get video of one of these final ceremonies. Our photographer and reporter were told they could not be there.

Eyewitness News also hoped to get a statement from Barnett on this issue, and reporter Jose Gaspar was told she might issue one. But Gaspar was asked to leave the office, when staff said he had gone into an off-limits area. Gaspar says that did not happen.

But, I was asked to stay and wait for Barnett -- in case she did make a statement. At 3:10, I let the office receptionist know I would wait for Barnett -- she came out of her office about ten minutes later.

Barnett handed me a slip of paper with a short statement: "All media inquiries can be directed to Greg Scott." The slip included a phone number.

I asked Barnett who Greg Scott is. "He's going to speak for my attorney," Barnett told me.

I also asked Barnett why our photographer and Gaspar were not allowed to be at the wedding in the clerk's office earlier in the day. These are ceremonies we have video-taped in the past.

"We found the other day some of the media tried to get outside the area, and we found it was a little too disruptive for the staff in conducting business," said Barnett. "So that's why we denied access."

Eyewitness News did video-tape a wedding in the clerk's office on Friday. Thursday, a staffer in the clerk's office -- who would not identify herself -- told Gaspar he was the reporter who went where he wasn't supposed to.

Gaspar says that did not happen. And on Thursday, a clerk's employee told Gaspar he couldn't video-tape the wedding because ballots from the June 3rd election were being counted in another part of the clerk's office.

But, Eyewitness News had more questions. On Thursday, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom apparently offered to perform weddings in Kern or Butte counties -- if those counties didn't have the staff to do it.

Eyewitness News called the mayor's office, but our calls were not returned. Apparently the mayor offered to have staff from his office available to perform these ceremonies.

We asked Barnett what she thought of Newsom's offer. "I guess Mayor Newsom can do what he wants," she said.

We also asked Barnett if she had any other comments on the marriage ceremony issues, she said 'no.'

Again, Barnett is referring all media questions to Greg Scott from the Alliance Defense Fund. Scott is the Media Relations Director from the Alliance Defense Fund, and he released this statement from Brian Raum, the Alliance Defense Fund Senior Legal Counsel to Eyewitness News: "The Alliance Defense Fund is prepared to defend any clerk who exercises his or her right not to perform wedding ceremonies under California law."

According to their website, the Alliance Defense Fund represents -- among other issues -- tradition family values, which includes defining marriage as between a man and a woman.