Gay, lesbian couples flock to California courts to wed

July 1, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Jubilant gay and lesbian couples flocked to city halls and county courthouses across California on Monday to wed with pets, siblings and kids in tow as same-sex marriages resumed across the state following a five-year legal hiatus.

Monday was the first chance for all but a handful of the state's same-sex couples to wed since 2008, when about 18,000 marriages went forward during a brief legal window before a voter-approved ban.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on the constitutional merits of that ban - called Proposition 8 - and a lower court on Friday said same-sex marriages could resume. On Sunday, Justice Anthony Kennedy rejected a last-ditch appeal.

While a few lucky couples were able to score marriage licenses before government offices closed and wed late Friday and scores of others tied the knot at San Francisco City Hall over the weekend, Monday was the day many couples had been awaiting for years.

There were lines at dawn outside the marriage license office in San Jose. A high-profile gay politician spent most of the day officiating, and we witnessed the first couple in line getting married.

"We're finally gonna get married," Trish Kedar said, with her partner Eve adding, "It's a big day!"

The two were in line at 5:45 in the morning so they could be first. They met online and have been together for five years.

"It was great when I got here at 7:30 in the morning and seeing the lineup, and I knew it was going to be a particularly special day," Board of Supervisors President Ken Yeager said.

Yeager, who is gay, officiated in his private office, much the way he did for 50 couples until Prop. 8 halted same-sex marriage.

"I now pronounce you married under the laws of the State of California," he said. "Seal that marriage with a kiss!"

Beyond the bond of commitment and love, the Kedar's say their lives will less complicated.

"My company didn't offer domestic partner benefits, so we were paying out of pocket for all of her health care," Trish said. "We don't have to do that anymore."

"We don't have to worry about that," Eve added, "And if someone gets sick, we don't have to have a talk with the nurse that no, really, she can come into the room."

Three windows at the county clerk's office have been designated for express service because of an expected flood of same-sex couples.

Scott Peeler and Bruce Crowell got married after a 24-year relationship.

In San Francisco, wedding bells continue to ring at City Hall. About 40 ceremonies took place in the Rotunda on Monday.

For Ryan Torchia and Mike Macklin, this comes eight years to the day that Torchia proposed.

"We've been waiting years and years for this to happen," he said. "And as soon as it came down, you know you wake up one day and like, this is legal, let's go do it."

The quiet atmosphere is quite a contrast to the whirlwind that began on Friday with the City Hall marriage of Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, plaintiffs in the Prop. 8 case. Over the weekend the county clerk issued 563 same-sex marriage licenses.

From now on, you need an appointment to get a marriage license in San Francisco, and they're booked until July 16. They say the best way to sign up is online, though the county clerk's computer crashed at least two times Monday because of the high demand.

The Los Angeles County clerk-recorder's office logged more than 600 online marriage license applications over the weekend - more than five times the normal amount - and posted extended hours Monday and Tuesday to deal with the crush.

In West Hollywood, where about 40 percent of the population is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, the City Council was deputized to perform nuptials. Free shuttles ran from court to near City Hall.

Twenty couples were married within the first 45 minutes Monday and a line grew throughout the morning.

In the smaller, rural counties, the scene was more subdued but joyous.

In Shasta County, one couple wed before 9 a.m., said County Clerk Cathy Darling Allen, but the county will perform same-sex weddings on an as-needed basis to supplement its regular twice weekly ceremonies for couples.

In Tulare County, fewer than a dozen couples showed up to get marriage licenses, said Julie Poochigian, the county's Chief Deputy Clerk-Recorder.

A last-minute move by opponents of gay marriage to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the nuptials that failed on Sunday, added an extra layer of jubilation to the city's annual Pride Parade.

Though ceremonies were taking place throughout the state, gay marriage opponents say they still believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.

One vocal critic wasn't talking publicly Monday, but told us this weekend his organization "Protect Marriage" is mulling over its options.

"As long as it's still viable, we're going to continue to push for traditional marriage and reminding people of the importance of both mothers and fathers in the raising of children," said Andy Pugno, lead counsel at ProtectMarriage.com.

"From a church perspective, we're going to stick to our guns," said the Rev. Chris Clark, pastor of the East Clairemont Baptist Church in San Diego. "God's design for marriage hasn't changed. It's one man, one woman."

In Sacramento, opponents were less visible Monday than during the lengthy legal saga. Fewer than a dozen protesters gathered outside the clerk-recorder's office holding large signs that read "GOD has ruled on marriage" and "Marriage1 Man+1 Woman." One man shouted at couples through a bullhorn. The protesters left by midmorning.

But with the court rulings in place, some couples feel no need to rush to the altar. They can take time to plan.

Torchia and Macklin got their license Monday, but the wedding is still in the works.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)


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