Same-sex couples get married in Santa Rosa

June 16, 2008 7:11:59 PM PDT
In Santa Rosa Wayne Freedman followed a same-sex couple on their wedding day in Sonoma County.

In Sonoma County on Monday night, a historic moment looked like a room filled with happy people, especially since a couple there had been together and waiting for 37 years to marry.

"Well, I no longer feel like an outsider. But we've been together for so long that the emotional bond is already there," said Al Mueller, a man getting married.

Al Mueller and Doug Erickson were pretty much the same as Sheryl and Joann Bratton, on a day when legal binds matter.

"It makes it legal. Makes it real. Makes me feel I have all the rights, just like anyone else," said Joann Bratton, a woman getting married.

Sheryl and Joann have been together since 1997. They performed their own ceremony in 1999, share the same last name, and have an adopted daughter.

"We're jumping at the opportunity," said Sheryl Bratton.

And they're not alone.

In Sonoma County, the staff describes this as quite simply the biggest day for weddings, ever.

"This is double of Valentine's Day," said Deputy Clerk Vicki Petersen, from Sonoma County.

Petersen has already booked weddings into early August. On Monday, as she did paperwork, while outside the door, her boss, Janice Atkinson, spruced up the county wedding chapel. It was their option, entirely, to begin at 5:01 this evening.

"We could have waited until morning, but why?" said Atkinson.

There's more than sentiment at stake for Sheryl because she happens to be an attorney for the county. As happy as she and Joann expected their wedding day to be, it was tempered by a lingering fear that this might still be too good to be true.

"I want to act before there is legal maneuvering going on that might try to strip away the counties from being able to marry gays and lesbians," said Sheryl.

Sheryl and Joanne finally got married and about 30 friends and a very happy group of people joined them.

Inside the clerks office the line was long, indicating marriages may go on for a while.

Joann had one interesting comment after the wedding. Because they have already had a ceremony for themselves back in 1999, and now they've gotten married for the state. She said the big complication is now she'll have to remember two dates.


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