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North Bay couples join wedding march

Dianna Grayer and Sheridan Gold plan to frame the marriage license they received in San Francisco on Monday and display it prominently in their Petaluma home for all their guests to see.
/ Source: PressDemocrat.com

Dianna Grayer and Sheridan Gold plan to frame the marriage license they received in San Francisco on Monday and display it prominently in their Petaluma home for all their guests to see.

To the couple of 26 years, it doesn't matter that judges could soon declare the document invalid.

"It's probably invalid already. We know that," Gold said. "For me I just see it as making history. ... We helped the whole world see there's a need out there for this."

A day after the pair exchanged wedding vows to the sounds of harps and flutes on the rotunda balcony at San Francisco City Hall, the legal wrangling over same-sex marriage was fully under way.

Although two judges delayed ruling Tuesday on whether to block licenses from being issued to gay couples, one said the ban would likely succeed eventually.

Since Thursday nearly 2,400 same-sex weddings have taken place in San Francisco, with couples from the North Bay among them.

For Grayer, 46, and Gold, 48, who braved wet weather and a 13-hour-long wait over two days, it was worth it.

"Hopefully we've paved the way for others so they don't have to go through all this," said Grayer, a marriage and family therapist.

Still, the end result has been bittersweet.

"I really do have this underlying feeling of sadness. It shouldn't have had to be this hard," said Gold, a special education teacher. "It really helped me get in touch more with other oppressed groups who've had to fight for their civil rights."

Sonoma County Clerk Eeve Lewis said legal questions remain as to whether a marriage license obtained by a same-sex couple in San Francisco would be considered valid in the North Bay, where the documents are issued only to heterosexual couples.

"I could not tell them that it's valid in Sonoma County. That's not what the law says," she said. "If someone came to me and said, 'I went down there and what am I supposed to do with my license here?' I would refer them to an attorney."

Lewis said her office has received a handful of calls from people wondering whether Sonoma County, which, according to the 2000 Census, has the second-highest number of gay couple homes per capita in the state, behind only San Francisco, also plans to offer marriage licenses to same-sex partners.

Her answer is, "No."

"State law says that to get a marriage license in California you have to be an unmarried man and an unmarried woman," Lewis said. "Sonoma County would not be able to issue licenses to couples who don't meet that criteria because we will follow what the law dictates at this point."

Caren Callahan, a lawyer who lives in Ukiah, and her partner of 14 years, Lisa Robinson, a paralegal, are closely watching the outcome of the San Francisco court cases.

The pair obtained a marriage license there Friday, with Robinson's 27-year-old son acting as best man in the ceremony that followed.

"I had a bet with a friend of mine that I would see this in my lifetime," Callahan said.

She and Robinson also were married last year in Canada in a private ceremony after that country began allowing same-sex unions.

But being able to experience the ceremony in their own backyard was especially meaningful.

"I e-mailed her a proposal and I asked if she would marry me in the United States of America, take the day off work and drive to San Francisco," Callahan, 44, said.

Whether or not courts rule their San Francisco marriage license is invalid, they will continue to view themselves as a married couple.

"It still remains a valid marriage in my mind and in my heart," said Robinson, 50. "In some ways I don't think any couple really needs a piece of paper to say it's OK to love this person. But in the situation for gays and lesbians it's important for us to have that opportunity."

You can reach Staff Writer Cecilia M. Vega at 521-5213 or cvega@pressdemocrat.com.