In Beverly Hills, the wedding couple wore matching ivory suits as a rabbi officiated on a courthouse plaza. In San Francisco, the brides exchanged vows as Mayor Gavin Newsom presided. And across the state Monday, at 5:01 p.m., the moment that same-sex marriage became legal by order of the California Supreme Court, exultant gay couples raced to be first to partake in a legal ritual long denied them.
County registrars and clerks in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Alameda, Sonoma and Yolo counties kept offices open to allow at least two dozen same-sex couples the distinction of being among the first to wed.
Before the ceremonies began, L.A. Cardinal Roger Mahony and seven other Southern California Roman Catholic bishops reaffirmed their opposition to same-sex marriage. In a statement, the clerics said marriage "has a unique place in God's creation, joining a man and a woman in a committed relationship in order to nurture and support the new life for which marriage is intended."
In Los Angeles County, longtime partners Diane Olson and Robin Tyler were the first and only same-sex couple to obtain a license Monday. Together 15 years, Olson and Tyler were the original plaintiffs in the 2004 California lawsuit challenging the ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional. The couple were chosen to receive the county's first license "in recognition of their unique role in the court's decision," said acting L.A. County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, June 18, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
Roman Catholic bishops: An article about gay marriage in Tuesday's Section A reported that L.A. Cardinal Roger Mahony and seven other Southern California Roman Catholic bishops reaffirmed their opposition to same-sex marriage. In addition to Mahony, six bishops serve the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
For eight years the couple trekked to the Beverly Hills courthouse on Valentine's Day, only to be denied a marriage license each time. They returned Monday as conquering heroines -- with friends, their high-profile lawyer, Gloria Allred, and a mass of media in tow.
Olson and Tyler were swarmed by news cameras as they entered the courthouse. "We just love each other," gushed Tyler as Olson gently placed her hand on the small of her back.
Around them were dozens of family and friends and a smattering of protesters quietly holding banners offering varying slogans, including "Homo Sex Is Sin!," but all suggesting that gay marriage invokes God's wrath.
At the county clerk's window, as Olson and Tyler's marriage license was prepared, the full measure of the moment hit. "We've never gotten this far before," Tyler said.
"Well, you have today," the clerk said.
As they walked out the glass doors, arm in arm, each taking turns brandishing the long-sought-after paper document high, the crowd cheered and a burst of the "Wedding March" sounded -- as if the wedding was already completed.
They stood before Reform Rabbi Denise Eger, and their ceremony was both crazed and intimate. Tyler was tearful as she slipped a ring on Olson's finger. A wedding singer -- real estate agent Michael Libow -- crooned "Someone to Watch Over Me." Family and friends were forced to strain for a mere glimpse of Olson and Tyler as reporters and photographers surrounded them, a microphone boom intruding under the huppah, the canopy that arches over the couple in a Jewish wedding. Beverly Hills police officers solemnly scanned the grounds as protesters held signs aloft.
From the sidelines, a protester screamed, "Jesus Loves You!"
"Shh! It's a wedding," a guest scolded him.
Their friends seemed prepared for the fact that they were at a media event. "This is not only a wedding, it's witnessing history," said psychotherapist Arlene Drake, a longtime friend of the couple.
The rabbi also acknowledged the long road to the moment, saying they had finally found "justice that reigns not just on you but all of California."
The rabbi had barely intoned the words that Olson and Tyler had waited so long to hear -- "By the power vested in me by the state of California . . ." -- when the crowd roared its approval, momentarily drowning out Eger, who continued: ". . . I now pronounce you spouses for life!"
At the reception, the couple cut a cake with matching bride figures on top.
"My name is Robin Tyler and I'd like to introduce you to my wife!" she declared.
The brides will retain their own names.
"This is the last frontier," said gay Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who attended the wedding. "Women got the right to vote, black people got the right to vote, now gay people can get married."
If only it had come earlier, Tyler lamented Monday.
"I'm 66," she said. "If they had let me get married 10 years ago, I would have been 20 pounds lighter and I wouldn't have needed airbrushing."
The couple rode in a white limousine -- friends chipped in to buy them the ride -- from their North Hills home to the county clerk's office in the Beverly Hills courthouse. Tyler, a comic who also owns a travel business with her partner, and Olson, 54, who has a separate business in Beverly Hills, chose the plaza outside the courthouse for their wedding because of its historic significance in their battle.
"This is a civil rights movement," said Tyler, who has long been active in gay rights issues. "The courthouse is the place where we were turned down."