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East L.A. Gays Overjoyed

Eastern Group Publications, News Feature, Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou Posted: Jun 22, 2008

LOS ANGELES -- Some couples just want a modest wedding ceremony.

But it seemed many couples were not likely to get their wish this past Tuesday, which marked the first day same-sex marriage licenses were issued by the county, after the state Supreme Court called the ban on gay marriages unconstitutional.

Larger than normal crowds were expected at the county clerks office. But couples who applied for licenses or exchanged vows at the East Los Angeles county clerks office had the place mostly to themselves.

The East Los Angeles location gave out over 100 marriage licenses and conducted just 15 ceremonies.

gay coupleSo lines there were short compared to those at the main Norwalk office and West Hollywood branch, which topped all other branches with 204 licenses and 114 ceremonies.

The county processed 648 marriage licenses and 279 marriages in all, while the usual average in the month of June is 194 per day, according to Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan.

But even though couples at the East Los Angeles location avoided the fanfare, their ceremonies were no less historic for it.

Couples involved in committed relationships for decades marveled in disbelief that they were finally legally married.

Youthful newlyweds could barely contain their giddiness and excitement about their future.

Lourdes Ninette Aguilar, County Supervisor of the Birth, Death and Marriage Section, presided over East Los Angeles first same-sex marriages a gay male couple and a lesbian couple.

Lyn Parks and Steven McCarthy was the first couple. They had their commitment ceremony 23 years ago. They chose to hold their marriage ceremony at the East Los Angeles branch because they felt the areas diversity represented Los Angeles.

This is the heart of Los Angeles, McCarthy said.

They also chose the branch because Aguilar seemed like she was very receptive to same-sex marriages.

During Parks and McCarthys vow exchange, tears welled up in Aguilars eyes, prompting one party to stop and ask if she was alright.

Ive been doing this forever, says supervisor Aguilar. Its become routine but it was emotional. Theyre wonderful couples.

She married long-time lesbian couple Miki Jackson and Cate Uccel, friends of Parks and McCarthy, immediately afterwards.

Weve been together for 25 years. Its the icing on the cake. Jackson said. After 25 years, youve pretty much figured it out.

She sees marriage a way for her and Uccel to attain equal rights and protections.

Even though domestic partnerships in California afford many of the same privileges given to married couples, Jackson says they lose out on inheritances, health benefits at work, and some medical rights.

It takes us one step closer to being able to take care of our families, Jackson says. If someone becomes ill, society will be more accepting of the spouse being there at the hospital bed.

She says domestic partnership couples have to struggle to assert their rights and get recognized as an official couple. Wills by domestic partners need to be airtight she says. When one person dies Ive seen the family seize everything, she says.

While some couples looked to protect the lives theyve built up over many years, others sought a rite of passage into the next step in their life as a couple.

Twenty-seven year-old Elizabeth Balbaneda is in a domestic partnership with her girlfriend Nohemi Martinez, but she experienced firsthand the limits of their status when one of her heterosexual friends got married.

You get a different reaction. You get happiness. You get excitement, Balbaneda says.
I been living vicariously through her, she says.

Baldenedo says married couples get the kind of recognition that domestic couples dont get. They treat you as a serious couple, she says.

For Martinez, marriage serves to validate her feelings for Baldenedo in the eyes of others.

Its something I want to defend, she says. To have someone outside of my life tell me Im not right nobody should tell you what to feel and how to love. It is an intrusion. Ill stand up for that.
Balbaneda and Martinez had only planned to get their marriage license that day, but the county clerk staff told them there was room for them to hold the ceremony, which is normally only by appointment.

Balbaneda said she was just going to be cool. But to her surprise, upon sealing their marriage, Balbaneda leaped up and began giggling and crying simultaneously.

There are few things in life where you dont know whether to laugh or cry, and this is one of them, she said.

Related Articles:

Editorial: First Day of Gay Weddings in California

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