June 17, 2008

Sacramento Same-Sex Couples Flood County Office to Wed: Dozens Apply for Marriage Licenses Amid Protest

By Bobby Caina Calvan and Dorothy Korber, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.

Jun. 17--Gay and lesbian couples from Sacramento County joined the rush to marry Tuesday morning, part of the tide unleashed by a court ruling that made same-sex nuptials a fundamental right in California.

A crowd of four dozen people swarmed the doors of the Sacramento County Clerk's office on F Street this morning awaiting its 8 a.m. opening.

Cheers erupted outside the clerk's office each time the doors swung open and another newly married couple emerged. At least 108 couples were expected to obtain marriage licenses at the office Tuesday, many of them same-sex couples.

On one side of F Street there was obvious euphoria amid waving rainbow streamers. On the other, where two dozen protestors were massed, there were stern looks and warnings of damnation.

The opponents of same-sex marriage held up placards and shouted Bible verses via a bullhorn. One sign said: "Marriage Still = 1 man + 1 woman!"

Another man held up a sign: "Having doubts? Back out." On the other side: "It will never work."

Police were stationed at every corner along the 700 block of F Street, keeping watch over both sides.

Across the street from their opponents, happy grooms and brides waited to become spouses for life.

Kristin Maddox, 25, and her partner of nearly three years, Jennifer Terrazas, 24, both of Sacramento, were the first to apply for a marriage license as a same sex couple.

"This is the first day, a landmark date," Maddox said. "We want to be a part of history."

Sacramento's mixed scene of euphoria and condemnation is being repeated across California. On Monday a handful of counties, including Yolo County, began performing same sex marriages. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people are expected to join in matrimony throughout California Tuesday.

By Tuesday, the second day of same-sex marriage in Yolo County seemed like business as usual to several couples who came to be wed with parents, and children and friends.

One couple's marriage was conducted by their daughter, who is entering UC Santa Cruz in the fall. Maya Caldwell, 21, officiated at the marriage of her parents, Dr. Constance Caldwell and Sharon McCorkell of Davis.

Sacramento County extended its hours to accommodate its first-day crush. The clerk's office will remain open until 8 p.m. Tuesday.

"We expect a very busy day," said Wanda Dark, assistant clerk/recorder for Sacramento County.

Some high-profile local politicians have been "deputized" to help perform nuptials.

Mayor Heather Fargo plans to officiate at two weddings on the front steps of City Hall at 11 a.m. Tuesday

"Finally, people are treated fairly under the laws of our state," Fargo said. "It is an honor to help officiate over the freedom to marry, which is as fundamental as other basic personal rights of all people in Sacramento."

Kevin Johnson, her opponent in the ongoing Sacramento mayor's race, has said he personally believes marriage is "between a man and a woman" but says he will uphold the law.

After performing a wedding this morning, Sacramento Assemblyman Dave Jones sprinted off to the Capitol for a morning session of the Assembly's judicial committee, which he chairs.

In a last-minute bid, gay marriage opponents filed a petition Monday seeking to stop the state from using gender-neutral forms that stripped such words as "groom" and "bride." A hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in Sacramento Superior Court.

The lawsuit argues that the state Department of Health's Office of Vital Records overstepped its authority in rewriting state marriage forms. Jones, a Democrat, rejected the arguments opponents used in their lawsuit.

"I don't see any need for any new legislation. The court's order was quite clear," Jones said.

Same-sex weddings were legalized in California last month in a ruling by the state Supreme Court. That ruling, which took effect at 5 p.m. Monday, said the state could not prohibit any consenting adult from marrying, regardless of sexual orientation.

Two plaintiffs in that lawsuit were married Tuesday morning in the San Francisco City Hall rotunda.

Stuart Daffney, 45, and John Lewis, 49, were married by federal Judge Thelton Henderson, whom Lewis, an attorney, used to clerk for.

"We've been waiting 21 years for this day and we're thrilled it's actually here," Lewis said.

The newlyweds planned to spend time with family after the ceremony and may take a honeymoon later, they said.

But the battle over gay marriage is far from over. Both sides will be campaigning hard this summer over an amendment on the November ballot that seeks to rewrite the state constitution to ban gay marriage.

Bee staff writers Neisha Lofing in Sacramento, M.S. Enkjoi in San Francisco and Stephen Magagnini in Woodland contributed to this report.


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