Report from the Marriage Frontier
|by Darryll Netherton|
|(Editor's note: Darryll, a retired judge who used to live in Rehoboth Beach, has taken up residence in California. He was on the front lines of the marriage rush on June 17 and filed this report especially for Letters.)
It's been exciting here in Californiasame-sex marriage is now legal! Under the California Supreme Court decision weddings began to take place late Monday, June 16.
The first to be married at 5:01 p.m. Monday (the order went into effect at 5 p.m.) were Del Martin, 87 and Phyllis Lyons, 84, in San Francisco. The next day weddings took place all over the state.
I volunteered through the GLBT Community Center to assist, and spent half the day at the downtown County building. I answered questions, helped hand out long-stemmed red roses to the couples coming for licenses and those who had just gotten married. Plus, we cheered and blew bubbles from little souvenir bottles which had a pair of white doves on top and was labeled: "Happy Freedom to Marry DayJune 17, 2008."
Early in the morning (the office opened at 7 a.m.) two elderly men in their 80s tied the knot and then waved their canes over their heads! Just after we arrived for the afternoon shift, a young male couple came out after their wedding in the clerk's officeand one of my fellow volunteers realized they were his next door neighbors!
Another couple40 something school teachers had signs that read "Party A (Bride) and Party B (Bride)." (As you may have read, the license application now reads: Party A and Party Brather than bride and groom.) Their picture is in this morning's paper.
But most poignant for me was a pair of young women (I'd guess late 20s) who arrived with their year-old twin daughters! I gave each of the babies a red rose.
As a retired "judge" I can answer lots of questions, but I'm not licensed in California so I can't marry anyone. If someone wants me to do it, I can get temporary authorization and perform a ceremony. If you (who aren't already married) want to come to California and get married, I could do it for you!
Unlike Massachusetts, California has no residency requirement. One couple I met yesterday had flown in from Houston to get hitched. They planned to spend today on the beach and head home tomorrow.
This morning's paper says 230 licenses were issued to gay couples in San Diego County yesterday (168 downtown where I was), and 143 weddings were performed in the clerk's offices (112 downtown.) Amazing. It was an exciting day. I felt a part of history!
For those of you wondering how this is different from the San Francisco marriages of 2004, I can say it is a huge difference, at least for now. Those marriages were performed in defiance of then-existing California state law and when appealed were invalidated by the courts as a violation of the law.
But, growing out of that experience was a challenge to the law itself, and it is that effort which last month led the Supreme Court to find the previous law unconstitutional. So these marriages are in accordance with current law in California. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons were married in 2004, only to have their marriage thrown out. This time it's legal.
Of course, once the euphoria subsides, we must gear up to fight the ballot initiative the right wing has put on the November ballot. It would write discrimination into the California constitution and invalidate these marriages. If you want to help us fight this, log on to EqualityForAll.com, and see how. By the way, a good analogy is the fight in the '40s and '50s over interracial marriage. The California Supreme Court struck down state law in 1948 which prohibited interracial marriagethe first state to do so. Such a law today would be unthinkable. It seems to me the fundamental rights are similar. Think about it.
Best wishes from the Golden State where all are now equal in love and marriage.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 09 July 11, 2008