Norwalk and Riverside County Couples Get Hitched

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Thousands of couples flocked to county clerks' offices around the Southland Tuesday on the first full day California granted marriage licenses to gays and lesbians. Our reporters fanned out to various locations to gauge the significance of the day. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez was at the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder's office in Norwalk about an hour before its doors opened at eight o'clock, while KPCC's Steven Cuevas spent the morning with dozens of couples at the Riverside County Courthouse in Indo.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: By that time, Chelsea Thompson and Bonnie Milan, both 24 years old, had been in line for 10 hours. Milan said they came to make a statement to society and to one another.

Bonnie Milan: We're two people, we love each other, and we just want to be happy.

Guzman-Lopez: The couples in line represented a wide range of ethnic backgrounds and ages. Some were in their 20s while others were elderly and frail. Sixty-six year-old Paul Elliot of Los Angeles showed up with his partner Ed Joswick. Elliot said they share a house and their lives.

Paul Elliot: And I had been in a full marriage with a woman. And when that divorce ended, then I met Ed and fell in love with him. And now I know what marriage is, and what the legal rights are, and I want those legal protections for us.

Guzman-Lopez: Karen Wilson of Bellflower stood next to them. She held up a white cardboard sign with a handwritten Biblical passage: "Marriage is to be held in honor."

Karen Wilson: We have over 50 sexually transmitted diseases today.
Man: Yeah!
Wilson: And you know what? With this all going down, we're going to see hundreds out there, and you're going to see–
Man: No, you'll see less because they're getting married and they'll be going into monogamous relations.

Guzman-Lopez: A few other opponents showed up before noon. None tried to stop the proceedings. In line, couples filled out marriage applications that read "party A" and "party B." Then they paid $70 for a marriage license and an optional $25 for a ceremony.

The officials presiding over those ceremonies pronounced them "spouse and spouse," not "husband and wife." Moments after Julie and Gina Phineas got married, Julie admitted they were in a bit of a hurry, because they're...

Julie Phineas: Going back to work, and go pick up our children, and live a happy, beautiful, married life together.

Guzman-Lopez: And with that, the couple rushed out of Norwalk. Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, 89.3 KPCC.

Steven Cuevas: I'm Steven Cuevas. At the Riverside County Courthouse in India, dozens of people queued up before 8 o'clock in the morning, eager to get a license to marry.

Clerk on loudspeaker: A-110, window 6!

Cuevas: Many, like Diana Gilbertson and Susan Haller, had waited decades for their "number" to be called. The retired college professor and social worker from La Quinta have been together nearly 40 years.

Diana Gilbertson and Susan Haller: We're just, we're delighted. We're thrilled. And we never thought this day would come. We were a whole lot more glamorous 36 years ago! (laughing But we'll take what we can get! Thin and long hair!

Cuevas: They'll get hitched later this month. Others wed moments after getting their license. Dean Seymour and Philip Colavito of Palm Springs were the first. They were married by the mayor of Palm Strings, Steve Pougnet.

Mayor Steve Pougnet: Will you please place Dean's ring and repeat, "with this ring, I thee wed."
Philip Colavito: With this ring I thee wed...
Pougnet: ... and pledge to you my faithful love.
Colavito: ... and pledge to you my faithful love.

Cuevas: Seymour says he and Colavito wanted to wed publicly to make a statement in advance of the November ballot measure that could bar same-sex unions in California.

Dean Seymour: I mean, they definitely said we would be role models if we were to take this position. And we thought it was important that people see that we're normal human beings. We have normal lives.

Colavito: We allowed it to happen because it's bigger than we are. You know, I mean, people out there need to see that gay marriage is not a threat. This is really what it's going to be all about; just two guys or two girls getting married and going forward, just the way everybody else does.

Cuevas: Palm Springs plans to hold a City Hall wedding reception for gay couples in October.