Tori and Kate Kuykendall got in line outside the West Hollywood Park auditorium late in the afternoon of June 16, just about the same time that Robin Tyler and Diane Olson were getting their marriage license at the Beverly Hills Courthouse.
The Los Angeles County Registrar awarded West Hollywood the privilege of becoming a satellite office with the right to give out marriage licenses and officiate at wedding ceremonies.
Tori, 31, from Los Angeles, and Kate, 31, from San Diego, wanted to be the first couple in line when the right became available to all lesbian and gay couples in California. They brought their 5-month old baby daughter, Zadie. Jay Mendes, 40, and Vantha Sao, 22, also showed up around 5:00pm, becoming the second couple in line. Becky Gutierrez, 22, from Glendale, and Joanna Serranno, 23, from Glendale showed up shortly afterwards.
The protesters – only a handful – arrived sometime this morning, trying to get media attention.
“They have a constitutional right to be stupid,” West Hollywood City Councilmember John Heilman said.
Jeff Prang, the Mayor of West Hollywood, was overjoyed to preside over this day in history:
It’s hard to find the right words. It is a profoundly important day in history…It’s a very humbling moment to be here at this moment in history. Today culminates what really represents a millennium of discrimination. It’s a watershed event on a grand scale and even though the struggle is not over in America, and in California – given the ballot initiative in November [to overturn the California Supreme Court’s marriage ruling]. But this recognition of our relationships is titanic. And it’s a proud moment for all of us because West Hollywood has been the center of our movement for over a decade.
West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran, one of a handful of openly gay and HIV-positive elected officials in the nation, said:
This is the opening of a new chapter of gay and lesbian history. We’ve been looking at marriage as an end point – after AIDS and domestic partnerships – this is a new chapter. What happens when we have full equality in California? Where do we go from here?
Marriage means them, Gaston said, “taking the responsibility for each other and being taken of.”
But the thinkers were just as emotionally excited as everyone else. Their families – Gaston is from Germany and Enrique is from Mexico – very low education, immigrants in the fields, are “not only accepting but very supportive” of their relationship, Enrique said.
The WeHo City Council and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky all expressed their happiness at the moment in history and talked about the need to defeat the antigay marriage ballot initiative.
Duran noted that bells would welcome the couples as they proceeded into the auditorium to complete the licensing process.
“Bells symbolize – ‘Let Freedom Ring! Let California Ring!’ A bell breaks the silence… signaling that something happened at 9:01 a.m. on June 17, 2008.”
After cutting a ceremonial ribbon, the media followed Takei and Altman to the entrance to the auditorium and inside.
Couples – such as Yamileth, 35, and Angeles Dominguez, 36, who’ve been together for 3 years – lined up to apply for their licenses.
Lorri Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, and her longtime partner, Gina Calvelli, said they are getting their license today but are waiting to get married in September. “What’s the rush?” Gina said. They were also shocked to find out how expensive a wedding can be. Their first thought was to have a big “blowout” wedding with 400 people – but when they discovered that would cost roughly $30,000, they cut the party down to 40 close friends, Lorri said.
Lorri also said that “there’s something different about getting married. I haven’t quite figured it out. But it feels more serious.” She said they waited to marry because “we wanted it to be real.”
Tanya Voss, 40, and Sue Marriott, 41, flew in from Austin, Texas, to get married with their two sons, Mason Marriott-Voss, 9, and Cade, 6, as witnesses. “We wanted to be part of this historic event,” Tanya said. The family has lived together for 6 years.
Mason said he didn’t like standing in line “waiting for their moms to get legally married certicates” but, he said, “I’m happy for them.”
Dan Smith, 46, and Josh Sackman, 26, drove in from Las Vegas. Dressed in immaculate tuxes, they also had the shiniest shoes. “This is an expression of our love,” Dan said. The couple has been together for a year and a half.
After they got their certificates, George Takei and Brad Altman were besieged by reporters, some doing TV “live shots.”
Jenny Pizer, 48, whiz Lambda Legal attorney, and Doreena Wong, 56, also an attorney, also planned to marry today. Jenny surprised Doreena with a marriage proposal at a rally on May 15 celebrating the California Supreme Court ruling. The couple has been together almost 24 years.
Jenny said of Doreena:
I knew when I first met her that she would be important and special in my life. It’s only deepened over time….The heart of the matter is love.
This diary was by LA-based lesbian journalist Karen Ocamb, seriously one of the best in the business.
To look at hundreds more photos, visit Bilerico’s Marriage 2008 photostream.
Check out The Bilerico Project for daily queer commentary.