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A Rush to wed

Gay couples hurry to beat Friday afternoon deadlines. Some make history, while delays force others to wait until another day.

June 29, 2013|Bob Pool
  • Jeff Zarrillo, left, and Paul Katami were married by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at City Hall on Friday.
Jeff Zarrillo, left, and Paul Katami were married by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa… (Christina House, For the…)

Los Angeles' first marriage between gay men since this week's Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8 -- and Friday's lifting of a stay on same-sex weddings by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals -- united Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo in a ceremony presided over by outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, June 30, 2013 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 2 inches; 93 words Type of Material: Correction
Gay marriage: In the June 29 LATExtra section, an article about gay couples' rush to get married said that the Orange County Clerk would open offices Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to issue marriage license for same-sex couples. In fact, Clerk-Recorder Hugh Nguyen added a special Saturday date on July 27 to issue licenses. The county will be prepared to issue same-sex licenses weekdays at its normal businesses hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the main offices in Santa Ana, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at branch offices.

The two Burbank residents had raced from Los Angeles to the county registrar's office in Norwalk on Friday afternoon after learning that an expected 25-day delay in issuing wedding licenses for same-sex couples was voided. Heavy freeway traffic slowed the trip and delayed their plans to tie the knot about 5 p.m.

The snarled freeway caused them to miss out on being the first couple in the state to marry following the high court's ruling. Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, a Bay Area couple who joined Katami and Zarrillo as plaintiffs in the court case, married late Friday afternoon in San Francisco.

The men's five-minute ceremony occurred in a wood-paneled conference room next to Villaraigosa's City Hall office and was packed with the couple's friends, reporters and photographers. Zarrillo, 39, a movie theater manager, wore a gray suit; Katami's was blue.

The couple kissed Villaraigosa on the cheek as he stepped forward to officiate.

"I've done a few of these over the years. Never have I been so joyful," the mayor said. "How happy we are for you. Thanks to you, ceremonies like this will be celebrated with joy throughout California. Today, your wait is finally over. You're just as in love today as you were when you met 12 years ago."

The couple held hands as Villaraigosa asked each man if he took the other as his spouse. "We do," they replied in unison, and the mayor directed each to place a ring on the finger of the other's left hand.

"On behalf of the state of California let me pronounce you married," Villaraigosa said at 6:20 p.m., and the couple embraced and kissed.

Zarrillo told the onlookers that marriage had "always been a natural next step for us."

Katami, 40, a fitness instructor, drew laughter from friends and reporters by joking, "It's funny, people were saying you have the right to be as miserable as anyone else."

Because of anticipated demand for marriage licenses, the Orange County Clerk-Recorder's office said late Friday that its offices in Santa Ana, Fullerton and Laguna Hills will open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Orange County may be the closest place for Los Angeles-area residents to get a license before 8 a.m. Monday, when the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's office opens.

The weekend closure in Los Angeles County was frustrating to people such as Jessie Keyser. When a co-worker told him the state would begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples, he dropped everything and sprinted to his car.

Keyser, 26, searched for county registrar's offices that were open late Friday and filled out the county's online marriage license application, while his partner, Adam Welsh, 26, hurried across downtown to meet up with him. They headed to Norwalk at 4:15 p.m., 45 minutes before the county clerk's office was scheduled to close. The freeway was stop-and-go traffic, and the couple called the offices several times from the car, pleading with them to stay open.

By the time they rushed through the sliding glass doors of the Norwalk county clerk's office at 5:05 p.m., they were told it was too late. "It's very frustrating ... a let-down," Keyser said.

Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/Clerk Dean Logan said he received a call from state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris at 4:07 p.m., informing him that marriage licenses were to be issued immediately.

Couples who called were told they could obtain a license if they made the 5 p.m. cutoff. Keyser said he saw at least a dozen other people get turned away.

In Sacramento, Abby Maurer, 30, called her parents Friday afternoon to tell them that she and Kim Kearsing, 43, might be getting married in an hour. They all assembled at the Sacramento County clerk's office, which was staying open until 7 p.m., two hours later than usual. Someone picked up a small cake from a favorite bakery.

Maurer, a lawyer, was wearing jeans for casual Friday at her office.

The clerk's office was bustling as couples, who had waited years for the court case to conclude, headed to finalize their vows.

Some clutched hastily gathered bouquets. Staff members raced to process paperwork.

Nicolas Simmersbach, 50, was at home in Sacramento when her partner of seven years, Diana Luiz, 52, suddenly called from the other room.

"Get in here right now!" she said, and they watched breaking news about the 9th Circuit decision. They had agreed to get married as soon it was legal.

"We blew out of the house like there was a fire," Simmersbach said. But they moved so fast they forgot the rings, and Luiz had to return home to get them.

They were married in a small room at the Sacramento County clerk's office, the first ceremony in the county after Proposition 8 was voided. Luiz raised her bouquet of sunflowers and said, "History, baby!"

In gay-friendly West Hollywood, however, some were cautious. Kirk Allen, 45, sat on a bar patio with his boyfriend of three years and recalled the way "the rug was pulled out from under us" following the short window in 2008 when gay marriage was legal in the state.

He said he's going to wait a little longer before he and his partner set a date. "When you've been beat down like this, you want to wait a couple more days until hundreds of people are getting married," he said. "Give me the numbers, and I'll feel more secure."

Still, Allen applauded the appellate court's quickness in lifting its stay: "We've been denied so long. Why make us suffer any longer?"

--

bob.pool@latimes.com

Times staff writers Hailey Branson-Potts, Chris Megerian and Matt Stevens contributed to this report.

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