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Goin' to the chapel: Same-sex marriage in Calif.
by Amy Wooten
2008-06-25

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It has been over a week since California started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and the demand has remained steady throughout the state.

Lyle Ratcliff ( center ) and his partner, Terry Tyll, may be the ones getting married, but ring girls Natyllie ( left ) and Madelyn take center stage here. Photo by Rex Wockner

All 58 California counties started officially issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples on June 17, a little over a month since the state's highest court made a ground-breaking ruling that lifted California's same-sex marriage ban. Gay and lesbian couples all across the state and country have taken advantage of California becoming the second state in the U.S. to legalize gay marriage. Massachusettes is the only other state that has legalized same-sex marriage. Since June 17, there has been a steady demand for marriage licenses.

The L.A. Times reported that in the first week of legalizing gay marriages, over 6,300 couples—both gay and straight—have been issued marriage licenses, which is twice the average number for this time in June. On June 17 alone, the day gay marriage officially became legal in California, over 2,700 couples received marriage licenses. Normally, under 500 are issued on that particular day, reported the L.A. Times.

Counties across California saw large increases in the number of licenses issues, including Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Fresno and Redding.

All eyes were on California the evening of Mon., June 16, when a two long-term same-sex couples kicked off the legalization of gay marriage by exchanging vows. Some county clerks also choose to extend their hours and start issuing marriage licenses after 5:01 p.m. that day.

Among the first to wed were long-term lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, who are both in their 80's and have been together for over 55 years. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newson, who had declared marriage legal in the city four years ago, repeated the couples vows during the ceremony.

Also wed that day was lesbian couple Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, who were original plaintiffs in the case that led to the historic California Supreme Court decision. They were wed in Bevery Hills.

While most of the media frenzy has ended, demand for marriage licenses has not. Counties across California report a steady demand for marriage licenses, indicating that many gay and lesbian couples opted to wait a few days for the media circus to dwindle before they exchanged vows.

For example, on Sat., June 21, West Hollywood held a day-long gay marriage marathon, where over 100 same-sex couples tied the knot. In Orange County, which issued over 500 marriage licenses in the first week, there was an increase in demand for licenses right before the weekend, on Thurs., June 18, and Fri., June 19. Many local newspaper reports indicate that demand won't be dwindling any time soon.

However, citing a possible overwhelming demand for marriage licenses, clerks in relatively conservative Butte, Calaveras and Kern counties stopped performing weddings last week—for gay or straight couples—altogether, according to the Associated Press.

The University of California-Los Angeles' Williams Institute estimates that half of California's gay and lesbian couples ( or over 50,000 couples ) will wed in the next three years if gay marriage remains legal. And since gay marriage isn't limited to California residents, The Williams Institute also estimates that over 67,000 same-sex couples from out of state will flock to California to tie the knot.

—Assistance by John Lendman


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