Signed into law in June 2021, Texas Senate Bill 907 (SB907) concerning the application and issuance of marriage licenses through the use of remote technology, provides counties in Texas with the authorization to bring the marriage license process fully online. The new legislation is only applicable in counties where the county clerk is certified by the Texas Judicial Council to issue remote marriage licenses.
Although many Texas counties already offered couples the option to start the marriage license application online, couples were still required to make an appointment and appear before the county clerk in person as a final step in the process to obtain a marriage license.
In counties that elect to provide a fully remote marriage license process from application to certificate issuance, couples who complete the process through remote technology are considered to have appeared before the court, as required by law.
Remote Marriage Services on the Rise
The increase in remote marriage services—also referred to as online or virtual marriage services—is partly a result of efforts by local governments to make the process both more convenient and more accessible to citizens.
While the demand for digital service offerings was on the rise even before the pandemic, 2020 marked a key turning point for many government agencies as they began to proactively take steps to reduce the number of disruptions to everyday services. As COVID-19 demonstrated, the more remote capabilities and online services that organizations can offer, the better prepared a community is to continue operating uninterrupted in spite of the unexpected.
Over the last two years, we have seen some government agencies temporarily offer remote marriage services in response to COVID-19 restrictions. Yet to the dismay of many, once restrictions were lifted, in-person requirements were once again reinstated and the option was no longer available to couples.
Other communities, including certain counties in Michigan, still allow couples to complete paperwork online ahead of time but they must make an appearance in person to complete the process, per state law requirements. Nevertheless, with at least part of the process online, couples are able to complete paperwork from anywhere at their convenience, and staff is left with far fewer illegible or incomplete paper applications.
In Dauphin County, PA, the remote marriage process was part of the county’s 2020 efforts to digitize services for the safety and convenience of citizens. Unless the couple prefers to appear in person, the marriage license process remains entirely virtual and even allows the applicants to join the video conference from separate locations, as long as they are both present during their scheduled appointment.
Meanwhile, some jurisdictions like Utah County already made the entire marriage process virtual prior to 2020 and were, therefore, well-equipped to continue uninterrupted when COVID-19 began to impact operations elsewhere. Unsurprisingly, this was a big hit during the pandemic with couples from different states, and even different countries, submitting applications to obtain a marriage license from Utah County.
The Future of Digital Services
Remote marriage services enable couples to complete some or all of the marriage license process online and help keep the process moving if a government agency has limited hours or is unable to open its doors to the public.
With many local governments having gained traction over the last two years in advancing technology to the benefit of their communities, a lot of agencies are looking at ways to continue this momentum. By expanding digital capabilities and bringing more vital services online, agencies are better equipped to meet the needs of staff and constituents who have come to expect a certain level of service from the organizations they work with.