Gay and lesbian couples are expected to crowd into county clerk offices today; it's the first day same-sex couples can legally marry in California. Susan Valot visited with a Studio City couple that plans to wed within the next two weeks.
Susan Valot: Fourteen years ago, Michael Olman sat in a country music line-dancing bar with his buddies. It was the day after Valentine's Day. He was kinda bummed to have no one to dance with.
Michael Olman: The more I kept asking them, "Hey, let's go. This is kind of boring," they were like, "No, we're having a really great time!" And all of the sudden, out of the middle of nowhere, I heard this voice say, "Hey, do you want to dance?"
Valot: The voice was Peter Hayashida's.
Peter Hayashida: I asked Michael to dance, and he said yes.
["Under The Neon Moon" By Brooks & Dunn plays]
Olman: "Under the Neon Moon" was one of the songs we danced to.
Valot: The two men immediately clicked. They made each other laugh. They shared the same values. Peter says they've been inseparable ever since.
Hayashida: I definitely felt hope at the beginning, for the first time in a long time, that this was the right person for me.
Olman: We're still on our first date! (both laugh)
Valot: Peter, who's an assistant vice-chancellor at UCLA, and Michael, who's a TV sound engineer, are now planning their wedding. Peter says May 15th, when the state Supreme Court upheld same-sex marriage, was an emotional day.
Hayashida: I was between meetings on campus and I was running around, trying to find a television or a radio or anything where I could see the coverage. And I ended up sitting in my car, listening to KPCC (laughs), so I could get the updates. And I remember being in my car in a parking garage, tears running down my face, and I text-messaged him and said, "It passed. Will you marry me?" And he, (laughs) I could only imagine what his reaction was because, you know, every once in a while I would joke with him and say "Will you marry me?" and he'll say, "Oh, you know, we've only been together for 14 years. Let's see how the next 14 go." (laughs)
Olman: I think I responded something like that, like "Well, let's just see how the rest of the day goes," or something. You were just lucky that you texted me when you did because several other people texted me afterwards, friends of ours, saying, you know, as a joke, it's like "Hey, we can get married. Let's get married." I'm like, "Sorry, already spoken for."
Valot: Peter and Michael exchanged rings years ago as a symbol of commitment, and a silent protest over not being able to legally marry, until now. Peter says he and Michael probably won't have a traditional wedding reception. He says they'll definitely have a party, though, to celebrate their marriage and their 15th anniversary next year.
Hayashida: But we're still talking a lot about how we want that to look, how we want it to feel, who we want there, and what the form and format are gonna be.
Olman: We keep going back and forth. My mother keeps trying to insert herself in the process. (Valot laughs) She's ready to order all the Jordan almonds and wrap them in fishnet for all the guests. And I've had to kind of explain to her that's not the kind of wedding we're gonna have.
Valot: What they plan for starters is a civil ceremony at the L.A. County Clerk's office soon. Michael says he hopes a lot of same-sex couples will do that.
Olman: We've got this right now, and it could be taken away. But the important thing is for us to take advantage of that right while we have it so that as we get further down the line and closer to the election, it becomes harder and harder for people to say, a) it's not important, and b) nobody's really availing themselves of it.
Valot: Peter Hayashida says the right to marry is about more than an official piece of paper.
Hayashida: The piece of paper is not going to change how Michael and I feel about each other. But it will provide us with an extra layer of protection. I will not stand in a hospital emergency room arguing with anybody about who makes decisions about his care. Nor will he with me. That is a basic right every couple should have. And no couple should have to have that right questioned.
Valot: They already have a civil union. Peter says they're happy to have that.
Hayashida: But when push comes to shove, it's different when I go someplace and say, "This is my domestic partner," than when I go someplace and say, "This is my husband." We are legally married. And that carries a force of weight in people's minds that will allow us to function as a couple in society's eyes in a very different way.
Valot: And Peter Hayashida and Michael Olman say that's something to which they'll gladly say "I do."