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November 4, 2008


By Michelle Durand



Election Day hastens some same-sex weddings



Some same-sex couples are speeding up their “I do’s” in case California voters faced with sanctioning their marriage on Election Day say they don’t.

Conflicting answers abound about what will happen Wednesday if Proposition 8 passes, enacting a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and woman. Will the marriages performed between June and today stand? Will the unions no longer be legal?

With questions up in the air, a number of couples pushed up nuptials or decided to take the plunge before Nov. 4, according to numerous studies floated in the pre-election weeks.

Some couples who planned to wait for their anniversaries to wed moved up ceremonies to before the election, said Rev. Terri Echelbarger of Peninsula Metropolitan Community Church.

Echelbarger, who presided over two weddings this last weekend before the election, said all the couples are in long-term unions rather than new relationships rushing to the altar.

Some counties, like San Francisco, even extended hours to accommodate the need for marriage licenses and ceremonies. San Mateo County did not receive any requests to open over the weekend but did perform all ceremonies requested as opposed to the four typically scheduled per weekday, said Deputy Assessor/County Clerk/Recorder Theresa Rabe.

Approximately 18,000 same-sex couples will have married in California between June 17 — when the state Supreme Court ruling took effect — and Election Day, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a think tank focused on sexual-orientation law and public policy.  

State marriage license do not include the sex of spouses so the estimate was figured by comparing total marriages in 2007 to 2008 and assuming the increase was due to same-sex couples, according to the institute.

Likewise, San Mateo County did not track its same-sex couples specifically but also report some significant changes in marriage license numbers overall compared to the previous year:


• May 2007: 321; May 2008: 311

• June 2007: 395; June 2008: 507

• July 2007: 405;  July 2008: 582;

• August 2007: 417; August 2008: 573

• September 2007: 295; September 2008: 448

• October 2007: 302; October 2008: 230 (only half the month reported)

After the California Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriages valid in June, county officials like Rabe estimated an increase in licenses and ceremonies closer to the pivotal presidential election when Proposition 8 would let voters weigh in.

One couple fitting the bill is Richard Davis and Bill Lowell, of Belmont, who tied the knot Saturday after 13 years as a couple. The date was less a matter of political statement than timing — they wanted their families’ attendance and a dual ceremony with other longtime friends. A planned family reunion in Japan became a honeymoon of sorts, albeit before the ceremony at the Conservatory of Music in San Francisco.

But while the specific date was chosen to accommodate schedules, Davis said even having a ceremony was definitely given the green light by the court ruling. The couple doesn’t need a license to validate their relationship, Davis said, but given the opportunity to be fully recognized as a citizen wasn’t to be passed up — or overlooked.

“We didn’t need to have permission but once it was on the table we wanted to get married. The act of marriage carries a lot of societal representation. Outside of the religious, marriage is an act that is so familiar to so many people in society and it became something that we could take advantage of,” Davis said.

The past weeks have brought a growing number of private ceremonies among Davis’ friends to take advantage of the right while it still exists.

Even if Wednesday brings a state in which same-sex marriage is again not legal, Davis said he believes their license will still be recognized because it occurred before Election Day.

Davis said he agrees with another anti-Proposition 8 activist who said it would be a tragedy to wake up on Wednesday and realize he didn’t exercise a right he had for months.

The passage of Proposition 8 will also be bittersweet, Davis said, because there are couples who probably would have gotten married under the law except they haven’t yet met, aren’t ready or needed time to reconcile with loved ones who aren’t yet accepting.

On Tuesday, though, Davis said he and Lowell won’t be focusing on the possibility of passage; instead, they’ll be watching the poll results with friends “and praying.”


Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.