On Eve of Supreme Court Ruling, Calif. Same-Sex Couples Plan Weddings
Surrounded by 130 relatives and friends at an historic stable in the heart of California’s wine country, Laura Kutch and Jasmine Dominguez plan to exchange their wedding vows in late September.
Together two and a half years, the San Leandro couple became engaged last August. Local ABC Channel 7 news anchor Cheryl Jennings will officiate, the first time she has presided over a same-sex couple’s wedding.
"She offered to officiate my wedding long before Jasmine and I had gotten engaged," said Kutch, 37, who works in the station’s public affairs department. "She has been ordained and done several heterosexual weddings but we will be her first official gay wedding."
It will take place at Rancho Wikiup, which means summer camp in Klamath Indian, a vacation lodge in Santa Rosa built in 1915 by San Francisco industrialist John Rosseter. The couple learned about it from a woman who runs a catering company that is a nonprofit and teaches under-privileged youth how to work in professional kitchens.
Kutch had worked on a profile of the agency, called the Worth Our Weight Culinary Apprentice Program, for the television station and ran into the employee at an event ABC hosted in November.
"She asked about our wedding plans and she told us about it. It doesn’t advertise but is open and ready to host lots of events," said Kutch.
It fit the bill since the couple didn’t want a church wedding, neither woman is religious, and being native Californians, they wanted to marry in the Bay Area, even though same-sex marriage is legal in several other states.
"The whole idea for why we want to be married in the state of California is because it doesn’t make sense for us personally to have that certification in some other jurisdiction when this is where our lives are," said Kutch.
What they remain unsure of is if their marriage will be deemed legal under California law. Like other same-sex couples planning weddings this summer and fall, they are anxiously waiting to see if the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down the Golden State’s voter-approved ban against same-sex marriage.
The nation’s highest court is expected to issue its ruling any day now in the case, known as Hollingsworth v. Perry. The court heard oral arguments in the lawsuit, brought by two California same-sex couples that wish to wed, in March.
Most legal observers expect that Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman that was adopted in 2008, will be struck down. Opinion differs, however, on just how the court will reach such a conclusion, and it remains unclear just when same-sex marriages might be able to resume in California.
San Francisco officials have warned that it could be at least a month, if not longer, from the day of the decision before they can once again provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Depending on how the U.S. Supreme Court decides the case, there could further delays should there be more litigation in the state courts over how to enact the ruling.
One of the couples planning to be in line the first day the same-sex marriages resume is Lisa Dazols and Jenni Chang. The San Franciscans met five years ago while training for the AIDS LifeCycle bicycle fundraiser and then volunteered together on the campaign against Prop 8 that year.
"We have always dreamed all of our lives of finding someone special to marry," said Dazols. "It has been hurtful to us to be denied the freedom to make that commitment to each other."
Two years ago on a beach in the Philippines Chang, 31, a business manager at eBay, proposed to Dazols, 34, an UCSF HIV/AIDS social worker. The couple had embarked on a yearlong project to document the LGBT movement around the world and is currently working with two filmmakers to turn their 120 hours of footage from 15 countries into a movie called Out and Around.
"I was shocked," recalled Dazols, for she had bought a ring and was planning to ask Chang to marry her. "She beat me to it."
Last year they settled on June 8 as their wedding date, booked the Guerneville Lodge, and invited 150 guests to the riverside ceremony. They had hoped that the Supreme Court would not take up the Prop 8 case, so it came as a bit of a shock when it did.
They then held out hope that a decision would be announced prior to their ceremony. Even though that didn’t happen, it didn’t spoil their wedding day, said Dazols.
"We had a very meaningful spiritual ceremony. We look forward to going to City Hall, which is such a symbol for freedom historically in this city, to make it legal," said Dazols, adding that many of the couple’s friends and family plan to also join them that day. "What can you do? We want to be there the first day it happens to share in the excitement."
Kutch and Dominguez, 34, who is a nurse, discussed if they should postpone planning their wedding until after they knew for sure how the court would rule. They determined there was no reason to wait, so last fall they settled on a date and are hoping for the best.
"We would love for our marriage to be legal," said Dominguez. "If not, then we will do registered domestic partners as a second option. For us, it doesn’t matter. We just want to celebrate with our friends and family."
Fall Nuptials Planned
Architect Tim Lorenz, 49, and Eddie Graziani, 58, a legal software trainer for a major San Francisco law firm who also does architectural design and development, are in the same state of legal limbo with their wedding plans. They have invited roughly 300 people to their wedding celebration in late October at the Marine’s Memorial Club in San Francisco.
They are cautiously optimistic that by the time they exchange their vows Prop 8 will be a thing of the past. And if it isn’t, the couple has no plans to postpone their marriage.
"It is one thing if we were younger to say, ’Okay, we can’t get married in the state we live in so we will wait for the next round to make it happen.’ But I will be 59 by the time we say our vows," said Graziani. "I don’t want to wait any longer while politicians debate the
Hopeful it will be both a spiritual as well as legal ceremony, the men have also devised a backup plan in the event Prop 8 remains on the books. They will either travel to Connecticut, where Graziani grew up, or to Washington state to also marry there since both allow same-sex marriage.
"Where I live is not as important as the idea of being able to marry the person I love," said Graziani. "We want to get married now. We don’t want to wait any longer."
After Graziani proposed to Lorenz shortly before Christmas last year, the men knew they wanted to have a long engagement to give themselves enough time to plan a ceremony. By choosing a fall date they figured they would also know how the court would rule in both the Prop 8 case and a second one involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
"Our relationship is not going to be diminished or hurt by the ruling," said Lorenz when asked about the possibility of California’s anti-gay marriage law remaining on the books. "What it does do, it provides us additional legal hurdles for us to ensure our safety and our economic security."
His decision to propose was not influenced by the unresolved court battles, said Graziani. It was spurred by his knowing he had found his soul mate.
"The relationship Tim and I developed is one that is absolutely right for the two of us and this is the next step," said Graziani, who first met Lorenz through an online dating service that calculated their compatibility at 99 percent. "It was the exact right thing to do right then. There was no need to wait. There was no need to mince any words."
Technically, Lorenz never said, "Yes." His response to Graziani was, "Of course." Months prior he had asked Graziani if they were "engaged to be engaged" so the marriage proposal wasn’t a total surprise.
His two daughters - Lorenz is the biological father to a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old born to two lesbians who legally wed back in 2008 - are planning to call Graziani their new dad no matter the legal status of the men’s marriage.
"My kids don’t want to say this is my dad and his domestic partner," said Lorenz.
The family is hopeful there will be no need for them to register as domestic partners in the state.
"It might be a possibility, but I would hate to settle for that," said Graziani. "One way or another we should be able to get married, but I am not going to hold my breath."