First Latino Gay Couple To Wed in OC Last Year Says Court Sent Mixed Message

Today's state Supreme Court ruling on Prop. 8, which upholds a ban on same-sex marriage, was bittersweet (but mostly bitter) news for Alfonso Guerrero and Manuel "Bibys" Chavez, the loving duo we profiled last year, and the first Latino couple to legally marry in the county on the morning of June 17, 2008.

They and 18,000 other couples will get to stay married (a move the couple sees as progress for the overall cause, despite the upsetting ruling), but thousands of others have now been stripped of their right to realize legal marriages with the court's decision.

"It truly frustrates me to hear those who attack us constantly talking about God, and what the bible does or doesn't allow," says Guerrero, who is the director of Latino LGBT programs at The Center in Garden Grove. "We are not asking anything from God. We are asking for our legal rights here on the earth. He'll decide up there what we do or don't get."

Last year the couple cried, exchanged vows and rings, and sealed their nuptials with a kiss in the snug, flower-filled chapel at the Old County Courthouse in Santa Ana. Like thousands of other couples across the state, they were euphoric and a sight to see: glowing and merry, they celebrated a real, legal marriage -- something that had seemed like a distant fantasy during most of their 27-year relationship.

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When I caught up with the pair last year, on the eve of their wedding ceremony, they were eager but also guarded. In all their years together they'd learned to be hopeful but also to not get too comfortable when it came to matters of same-sex relationships and equality in the state. They'd ridden the decade-old roller coaster of California's shifting yes-no policy on gay marriage and had resolved to keep fighting and hoping for the same rights as their heterosexual friends, but to also continue with their lives as a committed couple regardless of what the law said. Still, when the court finally ruled that they could legally marry, they felt like their dutiful and unwavering commitment to one another would finally receive the legal merit it deserved.

They had anticipated their marriage would be overturned today, and although they were relieved to find out it would remain legal, the message the court sent is mixed, says Guerrero. "Although we get to stay married, we're not reveling in the decision," Guerrero says. "We see it as discrimination against those people who were not yet able to marry to not now give them that right...We're not going to sit here with our arms crossed because we already got what we wanted. We will continue to fight so that all of us receive the same, equal treatment under the law."


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