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May 15, 2008


By Christine Morente



Court decision to have impact on same-sex San Mateo residents, including a supervisor



MENLO PARK — Wedding bells will ring for San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon and his partner Dennis McShane.


Together for 25 years, the duo proposed to each other Thursday morning after they found out the California Supreme Court had legalized gay marriage. The landmark ruling allows the state to protect sexual orientation under the state constitution.


"We need a china pattern," said Gordon, who is now planning a summer nuptial in Half Moon Bay. "Do you know of a good wedding planner?"


While a sense of relief and joy has fallen over the Gordon and McShane household, opponents are pushing an initiative to amend the state constitution and ban gay marriage. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he opposes such a ballot initiative.


"I have learned in my years of community involvement and activism that constant vigilance is necessary," Gordon said. "If this gets on the ballot in November, there will be a confrontation and a campaign that would need to be waged. I think that the growing sense of folks in California is equality for everybody."


The court's decision brought a stern response from the Catholic Bishops of California and the San Francisco Archdiocese. In a statement, San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer accused the justices of taking the state in a direction away from the importance of reinforcing the strength of marriage and family.

He called for those who believe in the traditional understanding of marriage to "deepen their witness to the unique and essential role that marriage between a man and a woman has in the life of society."


Gordon said the decision has nothing to do with religion or church.


"These are civil matters and need civil protections for gays and lesbians as for all other citizens," the 59-year-old said.


At the San Mateo County Clerk-Recorder's office, an average of about 4,500 marriage licences are issued a year. Deputy Assessor Theresa Rabe said she does not know whether the number of licenses will spike because of the ruling. She does anticipate that several same-sex couples will come in for a license.


Over the last few years on Valentine's Day, couples have rallied for the legalization of gay marriage in front of the county courthouse along with Warren Slocum, the county's assessor, recorder and elections chief.


State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, applauded the ruling.


Rabe said she is not surprised at the court's decision and is glad she no longer has to turn people away because of their sexual orientation.


"It was always very emotional, especially for their children," she said. "When you have two people who obviously love each other deeply, you want them to join in a union."


According to the county counsel, the state court's decision won't be final for at least a month. Once that happens, same-sex couples will be able to fill out an application for a marriage license online or at the office. The couple then has to go the office, show proper identification, and pay a $78 fee.


Laurie Anderson of San Mateo-based California Events is a wedding coordinator who has planned commitment ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples. She said she's curious to see how her business will be affected by the ruling.


Anderson plans weddings that can cost upward of $25,000, depending on the budget and vision of the "bride and groom, bride and bride, or groom and groom."

"They want their perfect day and they want to express themselves," Anderson said. "I'm there to make sure that vision comes to conclusion."


Denise Barnett, owner of Blossoms Flowershop at Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo, also hopes that her business will increase.


She's providing flowers for Crisanne Hazen and Carla Rosenberg's commitment ceremony in July.


Rosenberg is Barnett's sister-in-law.


Rosenberg said that since invitations for the commitment celebration have gone out, she and her partner Hazen, 33, will move forward with the celebration, but they will have a legal officiant. Rosenberg said she waited excitedly for the court's decision. Then the 43-year-old got a call from Hazen.


"We were in tears," Rosenberg said. "All of our close friends and family are coming. We've been fortunate to have that support, and it's great to have the courts and state of California behind us and grant us the same civil rights all our heterosexual neighbors have."