Page last updated at 06:49 GMT, Tuesday, 17 June 2008 07:49 UK

California ushers in same-sex weddings

By Rajesh Mirchandani
BBC News, Los Angeles

Wedding Cake at Robin Tyler and Diane Olson's wedding (16 June 2008)
The couple's wedding cake featured edible roses and two brides

It was a very public wedding. Robin Tyler and Diane Olson wanted the world to see them become one of the first same-sex couples to get married legally in California.

In the end, it was televised live on three local networks, and media outnumbered guests at Beverly Hills City Hall.

Outside the building, friends and relatives sat on rows of white chairs.

A table had been laid with white cloth and was adorned with flowers, glasses of champagne and a three-tiered cake - rather traditional in its design, with white icing and edible red roses.

At 1701, Ms Tyler and Ms Olson emerged from City Hall to cheers - not yet married, but holding the wedding licences they had just been granted.

After years of lodging petitions at this public building, and having them denied, they wanted it to be the venue of their triumph, and the focal point of a very public campaign.

Both wore white suits and huge smiles. Around them supporters waved rainbow flags and one held a placard saying simply: "Finally."

Around them, however, several protesters with banners carrying different slogans such as: "Legalising gay marriage is legalising sin."

Yet theirs was a silent protest, for the most part.


This was a traditional Jewish ceremony (in as much as it was traditional at all). The rabbi led the crowd through the service and the blessings.


Robin Tyler and Diane Olson exchange vows

Each time she intoned amen, the crowd repeated. Once, I heard a protester mutter "blasphemy", quietly, almost to himself.

At 1726 by my watch, the rabbi said: "By the power vested in me by the state of California... I pronounce you spouses for life!"

There were huge cheers and traditional wedding music piped out from the PA system.

The couple looked ecstatic, holding back the tears.

They kissed in front of a bank of TV cameras and were congratulated by their guests and, first of all, by their fearsome lawyer, Gloria Allred, who had worked with them through all their lawsuits.

It was she who had an argument with one of the protesters later, although it seemed to me to be more for the sake of the cameras than a serious showdown.

'Love is contagious'

As the guests sipped champagne, journalists and photographers thronged the city hall's steps.

Next they'll have men marrying goats, marrying their blow-up dolls... once you let down barriers there's no more barriers left

I managed to elbow my way through elegantly-dressed, gorgeously-fragranced women (and some men) to speak to the newlywed Ms Tyler.

"I feel fabulous," she told me. "I feel in love, I feel giddy, I feel happy. It's like it's not real."

Some there would say it is not real.

One protester, who gave his name as John, said: "Boys do not marry boys, girls do not marry girls, they never have, whatever they want to do, this is not marriage."

"Next they'll have men marrying goats, marrying their blow-up dolls... once you let down barriers there's no more barriers left."

Protesters at Robin Tyler and Diane Olson's wedding (16 June 2008)
Voters will be asked in a referendum whether the ban should be restored

Opponents hope Californian voters will overturn the Supreme Court ruling in November's election, when they may be asked to vote on gay marriage.

Meanwhile California is gearing up for a busy summer of gay weddings, as many of its resident 80,000-plus same-sex couples take advantage of the law change.

In addition, the state is expecting thousands more to come here from other parts of the country - California is the only state now ready to grant wedding licences to couples from different states.

I asked newly-wed Ms Olson how she felt about the protesters and their threats to outlaw her marriage in November.

"Doesn't concern me at all," she told me. "I'm not worried at all... Love is contagious."

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