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October 05, 2008


By Doug Jastrow



Proposition 8 worries San Mateo County residents



As Election Day approaches, many San Mateo County residents are expressing anxiety over the possibility that same-sex marriages recognized by the state of California will soon become a thing of the past because of Proposition 8.


"It would be heartbreaking," said Craig Wisner, who married his long-term partner just days after the state Supreme Court's decision went into effect. "Just a terrible tragedy."


Prop. 8 is simple and to the point. If passed, it would amend the state Constitution to include the language "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."


Legal experts disagree as to the effect this would have on existing same-sex marriages but its potential passage is clearly affecting the wedding plans of several residents.


After an initial burst of marriage licenses on June 17, the first day same-sex couples were legally able to apply, requests from same-sex couples have since leveled off. On the first day licenses were being issued, 29 same-sex couples applied. Three months later that number was down to five, according to county records.


"The increase we saw at the very beginning has not been maintained," said San Mateo County deputy clerk Theresa Rabe.


Some say the reason for this is could be the result of what happened in 2004 in San Francisco when thousands of marriage licenses were issued and later voided by the state Supreme Court.


"I know couples waiting until after the election," said the Rev. Terri Echelbarger. "They don't want to suffer what they had to suffer in San Francisco when their marriages were annulled."


Echelbarger has officiated at a dozen same-sex marriages in San Mateo County since the law was changed. She attributes the drop-off in license requests to the seriousness of those wanting to marry legally.


"Most are long-term couples who've been together a long time," she said. "And it's painful to celebrate something that can be taken away."


Others feel now is not the time to wait.


"Most of our friends are doing it prior to the election," Gail Cortefia said. Cortefia, who was married on Sept. 19, said her own decision wasn't influenced by the pending vote. It just happened to be the 35th anniversary of her and her partner.


But she said the upcoming vote is affecting others.


"A lot of people are trying to get married before the vote," Cortefia said. "But I see that as a positive sign. I have faith in the good people of California."


Recent polls have shown the majority of likely voters in California are opposed to Prop. 8.


But some people didn't take any chances.


Derrick Kikuchi married Craig Wisner less than a week after the law legally recognizing same-sex marriage went into effect.


"Our feeling is it's harder to take away rights once they've been given," Kikuchi said.


Those who are part of the wedding industry are concerned about the consequences of Prop. 8 passing.


"I would be disappointed if it went away," said Sonya Hong, owner of Butterfly Cakes in Burlingame.


She said she hopes same-sex marriages continue to be allowed in California.


"It's great for the economy and for people in general," Hong said.