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The Daily Californian


February 15, 2007


BY Michael Kay



No Valentine Marriage for Same-Sex Couples



For the second consecutive Valentine’s Day, UC Berkeley alumna Pamela Brown applied for a marriage certificate recognizing her 11-year partnership. Like last year, she and her partner were politely refused.


“It’s hard to come to the counter and get rejected, but we think its important to stand up for equal rights,” said Brown, 39, a UC Berkeley employee and 1991 graduate.


She and her partner, Shauna Rajkowski, 40, were one of four same-sex couples to request a marriage license yesterday at the Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office in protest of a state law which allows licenses to be issued only to male-female couples.


Similar protests, organized in part by advocacy group Marriage Equality USA, took place across the state yesterday to support same-sex marriage rights and draw attention to Assembly Bill 43, authored by Assemblymember Mark Leno, D–San Francisco, which would change state law to recognize marriage between “two persons.”


The day opened with a rally in San Mateo, where UC Berkeley freshman and gay rights activist Marina Gatto hosted a group that included Leno and state Sen. Leland Yee, D–San Francisco/San Mateo.


Gatto, whose mothers Ramona and Arzu have been together for 10 years and who became Leno’s goddaughter when she was nine, said she hoped the events would educate the public and influence Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who vetoed a bill last year that would have given same-sex couples the right to marry.


While many county clerks in the area have issued statements in support of AB 43, some will be using other methods to express their displeasure at having to turn away same-sex couples each Valentine’s Day.


In Yolo County, Clerk-Recorder Freddie Oakley will issue unofficial “Certificates of Inequality.” The document, which notes it has “absolutely no force of law,” concludes with the line: “I issue this Certificate of Inequality to you because your choice of marriage partner displeases some people whose displeasure is, apparently, more important than principles of equality.”


Malinda Jones-Williams, chief deputy clerk-recorder for the Alameda County office, also expressed regret to the couples who lined up to request marriage licenses.


“We are sympathetic and understanding of their fight, but basically our hands are tied in that we must follow the law,” Jones-Williams said, who added that the office has turned away a similar number of couples each year in her 14 years there. “Maybe next year things will be different.”


But not everyone shared similar sentiments. Outside the office, San Leandro resident Don Grundman held two signs reading “Hatred of Parents: the Cause of Homosexuality.”


The effort to legalize same-sex marriage is an “attack on the children of the nation and it’s an attack on the culture of this nation,” he said.

The two protests did not dissuade about 12 heterosexual couples from being married before noon at the office. Officials expected more than 30 couples to receive certificates by the end of the day.


Valentine’s Day is typically the busiest day of the year for civil ceremonies, with as many as 67 occurring in past years, while a typical day sees only 12 or 15 marriages, office spokesperson Guy Ashley said.


Activists hope that next year those numbers include same-sex couples, but say they are in the fight for the long haul.


“I hope that we will have marriage equality next year, but if not I will do this every year until we do,” Gatto said.


Michael Kay covers city government. Contact him at