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Traffic delays L.A.'s first gay marriage since 2008

June 28, 2013|By Bob Pool

After word broke late Friday that gay marriages could resume in California, the two same-sex couples who successfully sued in federal court to overturn Proposition 8 rushed to marry. 

But San Francisco beat Los Angeles to the punch.

Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, the longtime gay couple from Burbank, got stuck in the traffic between Norwalk and downtown L.A.

They were trying to get their marriage license from the last office in L.A. County still open Friday afternoon -- the county clerk's office in Norwalk. Then they had to rush to Los Angeles City Hall, where Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would officiate at their wedding ceremony.

The couple hoped to be at City Hall at 5 p.m., and they finally made it at 6:15. The mayor waited for them.

Katami, a fitness manager, said he was completely surprised by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to greenlight the resumption of gay marriages. The court had earlier indicated it would wait the full 25 days after Wednesday's Supreme Court decision for the ruling to become final.

"It was very quick. We expected we’d have to wait," Katami said. 

After they got through the maddening L.A. traffic, they were escorted into the mayor's press room by an ebullient Villaraigosa, on the last weekday of his mayoralty.

"How happy we are for you. Thanks to you, ceremonies like this will be celebrated with joy throughout California," Villaraigosa said. "Today, your wait is finally over. By joining the case against Proposition 8 you represented hundreds of thousands of couples in the fight for marriage equality. You represented Americans in the fight for marriage equality and the fight for dignity and liberty for all." 

He said that by looking at them, he could tell “you are just as in love today as when you met 12 years ago. I couldn’t be more honored to stand here today to join Paul and Jeff.”

He read the marriage vows, with the men taking each other as “your husband” and “your spouse.” At one point the mayor said: “I don’t know about you, but I got goosebumps.” 

Wearing suits -- Zarrillo in gray and Katami in blue, with both wearing flowers in their lapels -- they held hands as Villaraigosa spoke.

"I, Jeff, offer this ring as a symbol of my love and devotion. Let it always be a reminder of my vows to you," Zarrillo told Katami. They exchanged rings. 

"And so, on behalf of the state of California, let me pronounce you married," Villaraigosa proclaimed. The couple kissed, then hugged the mayor. 

Zarrillo said he was happy that he and his new husband were no longer "second-class citizens." 

The couple said they were heading north to celebrate during the San Francisco Pride Celebration & Parade this weekend, which celebrates gay pride. 

During the original 2010 federal trial over the constitutionality of Proposition 8, Zarrillo testified tearfully about being denied the right to marry Katami. 

"He is the love of my life," Zarrillo said. He testified that marriage "is the logical next step" for him and Katami. It would send the message that they are serious and committed to each other, he said.

Checking into hotels with Katami is often "awkward," he said: Clerks sometimes ask whether they really meant to reserve a king-size bed.

To eliminate confusion and embarrassment, he said, he would like to say, "My husband and I are here to check in for our room." 

Katami testified that being denied marriage felt like being "relegated to a corner." 


Gay couples begin marrying across California

Restart to gay marriage in California came as surprise to all

L.A. gay couple upset they can't get marriage license till Monday

Times staff writers Larry Gordon and Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report.

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