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Same-Sex Weddings Begin in California

June 17, 2008

By Mike Swift, Mary Anne Ostrom and, San Jose Mercury News, Calif.

Jun. 17–The historic, controversial moment came at 5:01 p.m. Monday: Gay marriage became legal in California, and one of the most high-profile couples who fought for same-sex marriage exchanged vows in San Francisco, as did dozens of couples throughout the state.

Together more than a half century, Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 83, emerged into a crowded San Francisco City Hall hallway, showered with rose petals after exchanging vows in a private ceremony. About 200 media members watched as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom stood beside them, wedding cake in view.

Weddings were also performed in Alameda, Sonoma, Los Angeles and Yolo counties and more are scheduled for today in clerk’s offices and churches throughout the state, including in Santa Clara County.

In paying tribute to Martin and Lyon, Newsom called the couple “extraordinary people,”"a manifestation of love made visible” who “fought for justice, for equality.”

Lyon and Martin, who were feted in a private reception after the brief ceremony, cut a three-tiered wedding cake — a white sponge cake with raspberries and strawberries and rose butter cream frosting — made for them by well-known pastry chef Elizabeth Falkner of Citizen Cake bakery in San Francisco.

“I think it’s a wonderful day,” Lyon said, “and we have to thank the mayor.”

Newsom opened the national firestorm on gay marriage in 2004 when he issued a marriage license to the couple. Later that year, the California

Supreme Court voided the more than 4,000 marriage licenses for same-sex couples issued by the city. Then, last month the court ruled that banning gay marriages is unconstitutional in California, a ruling that took effect Monday evening. Massachusetts is the only other state in the union where same-sex marriages are legal.

A ballot measure planned for November could threaten the legality of the California marriages, but on Monday supporters declared victory. About a thousand supporters gathered in a celebration outside San Francisco’s City Hall, erupting in cheers and applause.

Among the guests at the Martin and Lyon ceremony were attorneys who successfully argued the case that legalized gay marriage in California.

“History has been made of the most profound kind,” said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the groups that represented the couple.

And being part of history made for an emotional moment for couples who got married in Oakland.

The simple, ordinary phrase, “With this ring, I thee wed,” moved Anna Cannober, who married her partner Sonia Dueno.

“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m saying these words,” recalled Cannober.

Like many of the more than 100 people who crowded into the lobby of the Alameda County clerk-recorders lobby at 5:01 p.m., Monday was a day that Cannober questioned would ever come.

The first wedding in Oakland happened a little later than the ceremony in San Francisco, because officials had to change computer software that uploads new marriage license applications, where the words “Bride” and “Groom” were replaced by “Party A” and “Party B.”

Emeryville residents Keith Boadwee, 46, an art professor, and Kenny Latham, 47, a shipping expediter, were the first to marry at the Alameda County wedding chapel decorated by workers with balloons and sprays of carnations and roses paid for by employees.

After the ceremony Deputy Marriage Commissioner Janet Appel handed the couple their license and said, “Kenneth and Keith, you’re now legal, darlings.”

The couple wore sport coats and ties and pink flowers on their lapels.

“I feel like we’re part of a shift,” Latham said.

County staffers Malinda Jones-Williams and Micki Regan-Silvey spent their own money and bought bouquets of roses and carnations, which they arranged around the recorder’s office.

Asked why, Regan-Silvey said, “Because it’s a nice thing to do.”

Other workers tied white balloons and scattered chocolate in the wedding chapel and two other rooms that were set aside in anticipation of Monday’s wedding rush of about 35 couples.

Just hours before the ruling went into effect, a conservative legal group asked a Sacramento court to order the California agency that oversees marriages to stop issuing gender-neutral marriage licenses.

Outside the steps of San Francisco City Hall, a handful of protesters stood, some disappointed that there were not more of them.

Mohammed Alawdi, of Oakland, who said he is a Muslim, held a sign: “Hi. God is angry with you gay people. Stop now.”

A steady flow of same-sex marriages are expected this week throughout the state.

In Santa Clara County, the first weddings will be today. As of Monday afternoon, the Santa Clara County clerk-recorder’s office had appointments for about 20 couples to be married at the county offices in San Jose.

The first, David and Rich Speakman of San Jose, were on final approach to their wedding Monday afternoon — picking up the tux and attending to the countless other details of a marriage ceremony.

The Mountain View couple were married four years ago in San Francisco, after waiting in line two days outside City Hall.

Rich Speakman, 39, is the owner of an information technology consulting firm, Sage Technologies. David Speakman, 40, is a former journalist turned law student.

The couple is using President Bush’s economic stimulus check to pay for their wedding.

“It paid for everything,” David Speakman said, “so we should probably send him a thank-you note.”

By Mike Swift, Mary Anne Ostrom and Jessie Mangaliman. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Copyright (c) 2008, San Jose Mercury News, Calif.

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