Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Big, Little West Hollywood Wedding

(Originally posted on MySpace on Sunday, June 22, 2008)

Hey folks,

I've been sick as hell this weekend, so if the following is a bit unclear at times, please forgive me. I've been hit with a massive case of food poisoning. I haven't eaten in over 48 hours and I've slept almost the last two days away. I'm still feeling shaky this morning, but at least I'm showing signs of conquering this horrible bug.

As I say below, I preempted the Thin White Rope story once again to talk about our marriage this last week. But in honor of this food poisoning incident, I will be back next week with the tale of Moscow (Russia) and Moscow (Idaho). We visited both during one tour and both feature tales of horrible sicknesses and disgusting bodily fluids. So get prepared. It ain't pretty and you'll find out all about it next week.


Well, I know I promised another Thin White Rope road story, but events this past week are going to preempt that attempt for at least another week. I hope you don't mind if I write about same-sex marriage for the fifth week in a row, but you see, Skip and I got married this week and it's something I just have to talk about.

Four years ago, we drove up to Portland, Oregon and got hitched up there. Of course, those weddings were later found to be illegal and after a year, our fees were refunded and our marriage was invalidated. I fully expected that to happen, but it was the political statement we made that was important at the time.

So, here we are almost half a decade later and, just like Massachusetts before it, the California Supreme Court did the right thing and voted that not allowing same-sex couples to marry went against the State Constitution. This last Tuesday, June 17th, those marriages became legal in the State of California and Skip and I found ourselves waking up at 5:30 AM so we could get ready and head to West Hollywood to apply for our marriage license and tie the knot in a legal ceremony.

Of course, the haters and their ignorant followers are trying their hardest to get a Constitutional initiative passed this November that will re-define marriage as between one man and one woman, therefore engraving bigotry into the Constitution that will force the issue on those who don't want to agree with it. But that's the way these so-called "religious" bigots work. It's not enough that they don't have to participate in same-sex marriage. No one is forcing their churches to wed anyone. They need to make sure that no one can participate, forcing everyone into their closed-minded prejudices. So, come November, if this initiative passes, same-sex marriage will once again be illegal in California and these bigots will force the public into staying in the dark ages.

But there are problems. Try as they might, they couldn't get marriages stopped before the November election, so even if this initiative passes, the question of what to do with all these legally married same-sex couples will need to be decided by the courts since the initiative will not be retroactive. That may take years. You can also bet that there will be more law suits challenging the lawfulness of writing bigotry towards one minority group in a State Constitution. It may take years to decide these questions and, in the meantime, the married couples, like Skip and I, should still be legally married.

Since we had been through this on a smaller scale once before, we were hesitant to enter into it again, only to be shot down and disappointed. But after thinking about it for a while, we decided that once again we needed to make a political statement. Plus, I truly believe that the more couples who get married, the more normal it will become to the mass public. That worked in Massachusetts and it will hopefully work here. By the time the election happens in five months time, the public could just decide that the world hasn't ended yet and probably won't, so what's the harm in allowing these loving people to have legal relationships? I really believe that this initiative won't pass. Already the latest polls are showing that 51% of the public is supporting the rights of same-sex couples to marry. That's enough to win and chances are, that number will grow by a few percentage points over the next few months.

But Skip and I are hesitantly joyful, so we went ahead this week and got married in a small public ceremony with only our friend Lisa as a witness. If we win in November, then we will have a formal commitment ceremony and large, noisy party to celebrate and all our friends will be invited.

For the reasons above, I was very glad to see Star Trek's George Takei and his partner, Bard Altman, at the courthouse Tuesday applying for their marriage license. Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi have also announced their plans to marry. Hopefully, many other public faces will commit to marriage as well. That publicity can only help the cause. (I have to say that I'm very disappointed in Rosie O'Donnell and her girlfriend, Kelli Carpenter, for refusing to get married until the question is settled. That's just not the way to support this cause and I've come to trust Rosie's support. I'll forgive her for all the other support she's given, but she's dead wrong this time and it hurts.)

We picked up Lisa at 7 AM and arrived and parked in West Hollywood. We were at the auditorium that was used as a makeshift courthouse by 8 AM. At first we were surprised at the lack of people there, but by the time the doors opened at 10 AM, there were several hundred couples waiting dressed in everything from shorts and t-shirts to formal suits and tuxedos. (The doors were supposed to open at 9, but a computer glitch postponed that by an hour.) Mrs. Beasley's Bakery was there, handing out pairs of cupcakes to all couples, emblazoned with either the male sign or the female sign, depending on the couple. LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslausky was also there to greet everyone as they arrived.

There were also a couple of protesters. There was an old, black man, who silently held a banner asking people to trust in Jesus sitting on the curb when we arrived. Just before 9, three other protesters appeared. There was a guy in jeans and a black t-shirt with red lettering claiming that homosexuality was a sin. (His huge stomach hanging over his pants told me that he didn't understand that gluttony and sloth were both sins as well.) There was a bearded yokel with a huge sign claiming that we were all going to Hell. (This guy would suddenly yell things out that no one could really understand every fifteen minutes or so.) And there was a guy dressed like Satan, trying to beckon us all to follow him to Hell. (It was close to a hundred degrees out there, so I figured this guy in his mask and black sweatshirt wouldn't last long.) With the exception of the old, black guy, these few protesters seemed to be more interested in getting themselves on TV and every time a camera got close to them, they would cluster around and talk about tradition and sin in monosyllabic words. After about an hour, the camera crews were done with them. Once they realized that they would get no more publicity, the Devil guy took off his mask and loudly told all of us that they were bored with us and had better things to do. They all left, except for the old, black man, who had least had the conviction of his beliefs.

At around 11 AM, Skip and I finally made it into the auditorium. They wouldn't let Lisa in, so she headed around the building to sit and wait for us to reappear. Inside, we had to fill out a form to get into line to pay for our license and ceremony. Then we had to get into that line and fill out another form for the same thing. Then we had to sit for about an hour until they called our receipt number. At that time, we approached a deputized officer that made us swear to the truthfulness of the information on the forms we filled out. We were then given our license and as each couple left the building, the couples waiting would give that couple an ovation. As we were waiting, we met and talked to a number of other couples, both male and female, who had been together for 15, 20, 30 or more years. Everyone was ecstatic that this was happening in their lifetime. We also did a couple of interviews with local news organizations and web/blog sites. (The CBS cameraman was excited when he noticed Skip wearing a South Africa hat. He had lived there and was eager to talk to someone else who had been there. We weren't interviewed by CBS, but we sure seemed to show up a lot on camera during their local newscasts according to watching friends.) I felt bad that Lisa had to wait so long, but we did enjoy our time in that building.

We next headed out to the park in back of the auditorium, where about seven small gazebos were set up with flowers and decorations. We checked in at the desk and gave them our paperwork. We were rewarded with a formal marriage license from both West Hollywood and the county of Los Angeles. After about a 15 minute wait, we were led to one of the gazebos. We were met there by Lloyd Long, the West Hollywood Director of Human Services, who had been deputized as a Commissioner of Civil Marriage. We were to be the first marriage he would ever perform and he was pretty nervous about it. Since we had been through all this before, we were remarkably relaxed, but Mr. Long was stuttering and kept getting our names mixed up and then apologizing for it. He was so excited to be doing this that we found it rather touching. It all just added to the moment. We exchanged our rings, said our "I do's" and he pronounced us married partners for life and we eagerly sealed that with a kiss. For the first time, we were now legally wed to each other.

We then walked over to a booth were a company called Devinford Photography was offering free wedding pictures to all involved. After posing for a couple of pictures that we agreed to allow to be used for Marriage Equality USA in their upcoming ads to fight that bigoted initiative, we were finally done. (Those photos will show up in my photos here on MySpace as soon as I get them.)

None of us had eaten yet and it was about 1 PM that afternoon. All three of us were mighty hungry. Lisa offered to buy us lunch wherever we wanted to go, so we decided on Comme Ca ( because what could be better than a real French meal for lunch? Of course, once we got there, I opted for an amazing burger with some of the best fries I've ever had in this city. We also split some oysters and a lot of champagne. Our waiter overheard us talking about our marriage and before we knew it we had an incredible cheese plate, some great butter cookies and amazing glasses of dessert wine in front of us, on the house! (I just found out they also didn't charge us for the champagne. Bless their generous little hearts! I'll be going back there a lot.)

With that, our day was over. We were exhausted. We dropped off Lisa at home with many thanks and headed home where we enjoyed more champagne and episodes of the great TV show "30 Days" and the not-so-great "Hell's Kitchen". I couldn't have asked for a better day.

So keep your fingers crossed. I know we have a few skirmishes left, but let's hope that the real battle has been won and this will last forever. I really am tired of the fight and would just like to settle into a normal existence, just like everyone else. I have to admit that I'm still rather pissed off about what we have to go through and the fact that this should have been a special day that we were robbed of. I'll never get to experience that thrill of proposal and planning that heterosexual couples take for granted and that makes me mad. But it will be worth it if what we are doing paves the way for future generations to be able to have the experience that everyone else legally gets. It will be nice for everyone to finally settle into banality. Then I won't have to write about it any more either.

(As a postscript for last week's mini-rant, Kern County ended up marrying both same-sex and heterosexual couples this week when the local clergy stepped in to marry the couples that the cowardly and bigoted county clerk wouldn't. She should be ashamed. She should also still be removed from office. There's no room for a public official to act like this. I, and many others, thank the real heroes of the moment. Leave it to the real clergy to define what faith, belief and love really are.)

(And as a second postscript, I received this from my heterosexual friend, Greg, this week:

"Dear friends,

I have teamed up with my pals Cheryl Pawelski and Audrey Bilger to raise money to support same-sex marriage rights. We've opened a store on Cafe Press called marriage equali-tees (, where we'll be selling cool t-shirts. We will donate $5 from each shirt sold to Equality California (EQCA), an organization that promotes LGBT civil rights issues in the state of California and beyond. EQCA will be working to fight the initiative on the November ballot that seeks to amend the California constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Their website is

If you've been looking for a way to show your support, one of these t-shirts could be perfect for you or someone you know. We'd also be grateful if you could help spread the word by passing our website information along to your e-mail list and putting the word out in the blogosphere.

Thanks for your help!


And thanks to you and your pals, Greg! The rest of you, pleased support as much as you can.)

I'm hesitant to promise, but I should be back next week with that Thin White Rope story. Thanks for reading and for the congratulations and positive feedback I've received lately. I'll see you here next week.

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