Notes From a Gayer-Than-Usual Tuesday at the Old Courthouse in Santa Ana

Kevin O'Grady and Craig Kain make honest men of each other
Jennie Warren

We're Here, We're Queer, We're Registered at Crate & Barrel
Notes from a gayer-than-usual Tuesday at the old courthouse in Santa Ana

Early Tuesday morning at the county clerk-recorder's office in the historic old courthouse in Santa Ana, just a few couples wait to get married.

At 8 a.m., the office door opens up, and the pairs make a beeline for the computers and sign-in sheets. Some have appointments, but mostly it's first-come, first-hitched. Couples will get married throughout the courthouse: in the alcove, on the steps outside the front entrance and in the old courtroom upstairs.

The first couple to become legally gay married in Orange County are Jim Carroll and Rich Videgain, who live in Newport Beach and run a travel agency. They hand in their papers and rise from the clerk's desk. Jim says to Rich and pretty much everyone within earshot, "God, after 33 years, we're gonna get married?!?" The pair then move to a small alcove inside the office.

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With its ring exchanges and tears, the brief ceremony is fairly ordinary—except maybe for the network-TV cameras in the couple's faces. It ends with a county official proclaiming, "I now pronounce this couple united in marriage under the laws of California."

The county official presiding over the Carroll-Videgain vows is deputy commissioner of marriages Daniel Gutierrez. He'll be performing most of the ceremonies today. Gutierrez says his biggest problem is getting used to the new marriage-vow coding—out with "husband" and "wife," in with "spouse."

"We have different-sex couples getting married today also," Gutierrez later says, "and the coding has changed for them, too. But mostly today has been a great experience, a great chance to be a part of history."

By 9 a.m., what had been a trickle has turned into a flood of couples who, at last, are able to have their unions legally recognized in California. Some are dolled up in formal tuxedos; some monied couples are modeling Gucci everything. Some are sporting matching Hawaiian shirts; some are in shorts. Most are nervous as hell. After all, they are getting married.

One lesbian couple is rocking some awesome tattoos. The women fill out their license forms while juggling their two small children. Nearby, Sandra Dynes, 36, and Kelli Prince, 31, of Long Beach, are stunning in full-on wedding attire. Prince, who clutches a bouquet of sunflowers, wears a flowing, white-satin wedding gown; Dynes is in a masculine-appearing pantsuit combo. They will go down as the first female couple to get legally married in OC history.

"We wanted to get it done today," says Prince. "This isn't about special rights; it's about equal rights. And now we have a piece of paper that makes it official."

"We're not out there waving signs like those people in front, saying 'Heteros go to hell!'" Dynes adds. "They don't remember that it used to be illegal for people of different races to marry."

Ah, yes, the fundamentalist Christian protesters. Probably inevitable—but there aren't many, just three during the first few hours of the marrying frenzy. Eventually, a black woman in a full-on minister's frock shows up; she's carrying a shepherd's crook in her right hand and a white cross with the word REPENT emblazoned on it in her left. All she really does, though, is sing hymns—quite lovely, especially coming from someone who wants the fags to burn in hell.

Then there's the fat, bearded gent who hollers at everyone he can about his God's coming judgment, sin, damnation, fire, brimstone, etc. He and his two friends carry large banners sporting assorted indignant messages. One blond, middle-aged female protester refuses to give her name "because the gays will find out where I live and vandalize our homes later," she says. Then she takes a breath and says how all this is our fault.

"This is a travesty. It seems like everyone across the nation gets what we mean except for the media. The media is in lock-step with the pack of lies these gays tell," she says. "I want you to man up and tell both sides."

The best take on the protesters comes from Michael Valencia, 43, who volunteers at OC soup kitchens as part of the Catholic Worker charity organization: "I wonder why I never see any of these people there volunteering."

A Latina couple passes the protesters. Before the women reach the courthouse steps, Fat Bearded Guy blurts something that apparently really gets to them. They both whip around, wag their fingers at them, and yell something in Spanish that probably isn't very cordial. Fat Bearded Guy needs much improvement with his preaching skills. At one point, he gets tangled in a "life is about choices" metaphor like so: "If you go across the country, you're either gonna take Route 66 or the I-40. Which is it? You have to make a decision."

A random guy wandering the sidewalk out front passes by. He could be homeless, he could be not, but he quickly picks up what's going down and gets royally pissed off at the Fundies. "This is what matters to you?" he screams. "Compared to Iraq? Compared to Iraq?!?"

Jason Zinkin and John Perasco, both 37, of Irvine, have been a couple for 17 years and are now making their relationship legally binding. How will they feel if the state Supreme Court's decision that allowed this happiest day of their lives to happen gets overturned by the voters come November?

"I think the vote will be close," says Zinkin, "but the thing is, people would be voting to take people's rights away. Once they see all these couples getting married, I think it'll be hard for them to do that."

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