Karen Ocamb

I Do! California Performs Same-Sex Marriage

Filed By Karen Ocamb | June 17, 2008 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: California, Feminist Majority, gay marriage, Rabbi Denise Eger, Robin Tyler, same-sex marriage, West Hollywood

Truthfully, it felt more like an event than a marriage, as a huge swarm of media - me included - descended on Robin Tyler and Diane Olson 2586132994_2423e5bb4d.jpgafter they got out of their white stretch limo in front of the Beverly Hills Courthouse in the late afternoon of June 16.

Everyone was acutely aware that this was history in the making. And everyone wanted to get the shot. Not knowing what the shot would be - every twitch and toss of hair was recorded.

But then, towards the end of the religious Jewish ceremony performed outside the courthouse, Robin broke down, sobbing with joy and the full weight of how long it took to hear Rabbi Denise Eger say, "I now pronounce you spouses for life."

The actual issuance of the marriage licenses happened behind closed doors, made possible by the acting Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan. He gave the couple special dispensation "in recognition of their unique role in the court's decision" as the first to file a lawsuit in 2004 that was later consolidated with cases filed in San Francisco. The California Supreme Court's ruling went into effect at 5:01pm. The L.A. Times and KNBC4, which served as pool reporters, said that when the couple approached the county clerk's window, Tyler said, "We've never gotten this far before."

"Well, you have, today," the clerk replied.

Robin and Diane, who have been together 15 years, spent the past eight Valentine's Days applying for and being denied marriage licenses at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, along with the Rev. Troy Perry and his spouse Phillip De Bliek (they were married in Canada) and supporters from the MCC Church.

"We just love each other," Robin said as she, Diane and their attorney Gloria Allred were escorted past the throng of photographers blocking the entrance to the courthouse around 4:30.

They emerged shortly after their license was officially awarded to applause and the "Wedding March" and a smattering of hoots from protesters - which Diane and Robin either didn't hear or ignored. Once menacing, these scruffy looking, rabble-rousing, Repentance-shouting religiosities have become merely a nuisance.

But something strange and moving happened when the actual ceremony began. Despite shoving photogs, the no-nonsense rabbi officiating and the couple clutching each other under the huppah focused, and the weight of years of rejection started to lift. The license may have been civil and the ceremony may have been religious - the moment felt spiritually transcendent.

Rabbi Eger, who has been ministering to LGBT people at Kol Ami in West Hollywood for over 20 years, told me earlier that this was the moment Robin and Diane hoped for.

Robin and Diane's marriage today is quite a moment of joy and rejoicing for them. They've been preparing for this moment - not just by court cases but by just preparing for their wedding and for their marriage ....This is such a wonderful moment - and not just for Robin and Diane - but each of us can take a little bit away....

Robin and Diane are very spiritual people - Robin's Jewishness is very much a part of who she is and she and Diane felt really strongly that they wanted a spiritual context for their wedding - not just a civil context. So they'll have the first religious ceremony under this.

Denise is right - it did mean a lot, personally, to most of the people who attended, including Peg Yorkin and Kathy Spiller of the Feminist Majority.

Peg Yorkin said:

I never thought I'd live to see this day. So this is second on my list - first is to have a woman president...this is the second. Robin has performed for the Feminist Majority when we've had events - we've known robbing for many years.

Kathy Spiller said:

We're just thrilled to be here because the right to decide who you're going to marry is a fundamental human right and should not be denied anybody on account of their sexual orientation or any other basis. We're so excited to be part of this today...I've known Robin for so many years. She's been a leader in the gay and lesbian rights movement and in the feminist movement in general. This is a feminist issue so we wanted to be here to show our support.

To historian Lillian Faderman, 67, and her partner Phyllis Irwin, 79, the marriage was very personal.

Lillian said:

It means so much. My partner and I have been together for 36 years and finally, finally, we can get married. Del [Martin] and Phyllis [Lyon, who were married by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom immediately after they received their licenses at 5:01) are pioneers. But Robin and Diane have led the way because they've been fighting for this for the last 10 years.

Phyllis said:

I just think it's historic. I came out in the late 40s and who would have ever dreamed that a day like this would have ever happened? So it's just an historic, very important event.

When Rabbi Eger began administering the vows, the crowd hushed, then cheered as the photog angled for the shot.

"So now I ask you - do you Robin take Diane to be your companion in life... to love and honor and cherish her?" Rabbi Eger asked.

"I do," Robin said. Diane said, "Absolutely" - then remembered to say, "I do."

It was when Rabbi Eger started talking about the rings that Robin started to cry, "These will always and eternally be a symbol of your love and commitment to one another," she said.

"By this ring, you are consecrated to me before God and these witnesses - in the spirit of our people," Robin said, choking up.

They all read a religious document and then Rabbi Eger talked about...

...the justice that rains not just on the two of you - but on all of California and flowing from California, we pray, throughout the state, throughout the nation, throughout the world that gay men and lesbians ...and all people of good will can find a moment of hope in what we're doing here today. That love does win. That justice does win. And hope does win. And that commitment does win - that is what you've done by sharing your wedding at the moment, at this time, in this place.

At the end of the public wedding, just before they cut the cake, Robin explained that she and Diane got married at the courthouse because it was "ground zero" for the California marriage case. But, she said,

We stand on the shoulders of hundreds of thousands of activists who helped make this day possible.

KNBC4 News just reported that there is already a line forming outside the West Hollywood Part auditorium to apply for marriages licenses starting at 8:00am tomorrow morning.

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I have tears in my eyes! It's so wonderful that two people can become committed before G-d and be able to share their lives together! But now I have one question? Did they both step on the glass?

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to reply - but I've been tied up with WeHo marriages, etc....

I remember that Robin stepped on the glass - but from my vantage point, I'm not sure Diane did....

But the atmosphere was glorious -