An annual gay and lesbian wedding expo in West Hollywood, Calif., took on greater meaning due to the same-sex wedding spree going on in San Francisco. Carly Foster, 29, of Agoura Hills, married Caprice Fowler in San Francisco on February 15, but she was among the estimated 2,000 people who attended the expo Sunday because the couple plan to renew their vows. "I hope the state will back our marriage," Foster said. "If they don't, it will send a message that we don't mean anything."
San Francisco continues to issue same-sex marriage licenses despite protests from conservative groups and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has directed state attorney general Bill Lockyer to take action and stop the marriages. Ignoring the legal fight for the time being, couples blissfully strolled an exhibition room at the Wyndham Bel Age hotel checking out various vendors. There were cake designers, travel agents, and florists mixed in with attorneys and nondenominational ministers who preside over civil union ceremonies or gay commitment ceremonies.
Organizers Desiree V. Hargrave and her partner, Kimberley Sikes, said they set up the expo to give gay couples a venue to shop for their wedding. Many wedding expos cater to heterosexual couples and sometimes turn away same-sex couples, Hargrave said. "Couples do want to get married and they need to find businesses that can help them out," Sikes said.
For some gay couples, traveling to San Francisco to be legally married wasn't a priority. Jack Tobey, 51, and his partner, Marty Robinson, 42, of Corona planned to have a commitment ceremony in October. "We're not going to challenge the legality of it," said Tobey, who browsed for cakes, rings, and other accessories for his wedding. "We support the couples who are doing it, but getting married [in San Francisco] won't make a difference for us," he said.
Some straight couples said they were disappointed with what they called Schwarzenegger's shortsightedness on gay marriages, an issue they feel could benefit California. "If gay couples are married, they have to file for a higher tax rate," said E.J. Campfield, a marriage commissioner who oversees about 75 commitment ceremonies a year. "That could help solve our budget problems here in the state."