- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2008

He wanted to keep it simple. Really.

“What’s the big deal at the end of the day to allow people to be treated fairly?” asked San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom the day before he married a pair of octogenarian lesbians at a minute past 5 o’clock on Monday, the precise moment when California’s law legalizing same-sex marriages went into effect.

There were plenty of witnesses to see Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 84, say, “I do.”

But it was not simple.

The event was both national cultural moment and pure spectacle, covered live on television - and trailing political, moral and legal issues as lengthy as the train on a wedding gown.

In the wake of the Martin-Lyon nuptials, close to 170,000 gay couples from California and beyond will wed in the Golden State in the next three years, according to estimates from the University of California at Los Angeles, which also revealed that the happy couples could bring in $21 million a year in tax revenues and spend upward of $228 million on their fetes, fancy and otherwise.

A marital surge is expected statewide - from simple vows to opulent productions to the $1,500 “Same-Sex Express” wedding package offered by a Serra Mesa event planner that includes flowers, cake, officiant and a snappy ice sculpture.

West Hollywood City Council officials will issue marriage licenses and preside over ceremonies in “beautifully decorated marriage cabanas” in two local parks, said Jason Howe of Los Angeles-based Lambda Legal, an advocacy group. George Takei, the actor who played Mr. Sulu on the original “Star Trek,” will be one of the first in line, accompanied by Brad Altman, his partner of 21 years.

Along with inevitable late-night TV jokes about brides in matching tuxedos, the phenomenon marks the advent of “The New Summer of Love,” according to gay and mainstream press alike.

Politics and policy hover like in-laws, however.

Currently, 41 states have laws or amendments banning same-sex marriage, though seven states and the District provide some spousal rights for same-sex couples. The American Civil Liberties Union and a consortium of national gay rights groups have warned the celebrants to stay out of the courtroom should their home state not recognize their unions.

“If you’re ready and it’s right for you, get married in California. If you do, claim the name and act like what you are: married. But don’t go suing right away. Most lawsuits will likely set us all back,” the groups said in a joint statement.

Two California counties, claiming they are understaffed, said they will not perform any marriages this week - gay or heterosexual.

Campaign for Children and Families, a California-based pro-family organization, seeks change at an administrative level. The group filed a petition in Sacramento on Monday seeking a statewide injunction against the new “Party A/Party B” marriage forms.

“Parents, grandparents and everyone else who is appalled at the notion of homosexual ‘marriages’ shouldn’t give up,” said spokesman Randy Thomasson. “Californians can protect marriage licenses for a man and a woman by amending the state constitution. This will override the California Supreme Court.”

It is a work in progress on all sides.

Most couples vow that they just want to get married and be the “couple next door,” rights included. Mr. Newsom wants his same-sex constituents to be treated fairly, have a splendid day and remember that their freedom to marry was finessed by Democrats. The mayor himself is soon to be a groom, incidentally, though he has chosen to marry his girlfriend in Montana rather than California at summer’s end.

New York Gov. David Paterson announced that his state would honor the California marriages - prompting Bishop William Murphy, who leads the sixth largest Roman Catholic diocese in the nation, to accuse him of “subverting the democratic process.”

The outcry went beyond New York.

“Most Americans believe that gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose, but they don’t believe they have a right to redefine marriage for our entire society. Americans want our laws to send a positive message to children about marriage, family and their future,” said Matt Daniels, president of the Virginia-based Alliance for Marriage.

A CBS News survey of 1,038 adults conducted earlier this month found that 30 percent said same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry, 28 percent favored civil unions, and 36 percent said there should be no legal recognition of the relationship.

“Marriage is the most universal social institution, transcending all racial, religious and political boundary lines. As the largest ‘minority’ community in California, we have voted with our feet in rejecting the false claims that destruction of marriage represents the advancement of civil rights,” said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Jr., president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

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