Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Local same-sex couples jump at opportunity to marry


When the doors at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Hall of Records opened yesterday morning, local gay couples were waiting outside to get marriage licenses.
Some had waited for this day for decades, others for a couple of years. But all have yearned for the moment when they and their families would be granted the same rights afforded to every other married couple in the state of California.
And yesterday was their day.

“We wanted to [get married] today because it’s historical,” said Shannon Coburn minutes after marrying her partner of six years, Meredith Morin at the Santa Barbara Unity Church on Arrellaga Street.
The California Supreme Court ruled on May 15th that the law banning same-sex marriage was discriminatory. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Ronald George called marriage and the things it affords, a “basic civil right.”
It’s difficult to tell exactly how many same-sex couples were issued marriage licenses yesterday in the county because there is not a section on the new form that distinguishes between heterosexual couples and gay couples. But according to Mary Rose Bryson, a manager in the county’s Office of the Clerk, Recorder and Assessor, about 40 licenses were issued, which is 30 more than the county receives on an average day.
Morin, 40, and Coburn, 35, got their license around 2 p.m. and two hours later, with their 17-month-old son, were legally married.
“We want our son to grow up with it being a non issue,” Coburn said. “This will validate, in his eyes, our family as equal.”
The couple’s son, Mason, stood proudly holding the marriage license as his parents posed for photos.
Coburn’s mother, Stella Watry, said she supports her daughter and believes that she should be afforded the same rights as everyone else.
“I’m happy for them,” Watry said. “They’re wonderful mothers.”
While same-sex couples celebrated yesterday, many fear an effort by religious organizations to enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage could be approved by voters this November.
One of the arguments commonly used by opponents of same-sex marriage is that it could somehow threaten the institution of heterosexual marriage.
Coburn said her marriage and family prove that this claim is simply not true, and is part of the reason why getting married yesterday was a priority for her.
“This is the first step to show them the world’s not going to end,” she said.
Coburn and Morin’s ceremony was the first legal same-sex marriage performed by Rev. Linda Spencer, who called it a “landmark day.”
“I think it’s wonderful that two people who love each other and share a life can legally be married,” she said. “It’s an amazing time in our history.”
Many others were also married throughout the county, including two couples atop the clock tower at the County Courthouse.
Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum, who has long advocated for the right of same-sex couples to marry, conducted the ceremonies.
“Whenever I conduct a marriage I’m always very happy for the couple because they’ve made a decision to make a heartfelt commitment to each other for life, and today’s not any different,” she said. “It was just a natural thing to do and I was thrilled to be a part of history.”

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