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A Marriage Pre-Party in West Hollywood

A Marriage Pre-Party in West Hollywood


Stars like Jay Leno and heroes like Judy Shepard and T.R. Knight kicked up their heels to launch Pride Month and revel in the California supreme court ruling lifting the state's ban on same-sex marriage

The stars collided Wednesday night at a raucous party and mock commitment ceremony at West Hollywood's Abbey Lounge that served as a precursor to Pride Month and the official legalization of same-sex marriage in California.

Tonight Show host Jay Leno -- who has been chided in the past for making homophobic jokes -- was the biggest name at the event, officially called "A Celebration of 'Love and Pride' in an Effort to Erase Hate." Leno told the crowd, "I live in Hollywood -- who doesn't know gay people in Hollywood? Who doesn't love gay people?"

Even though Leno received the most media attention, Judy Shepard -- mother of slain college student Matthew Shepard -- was the crowd favorite. When Shepard addressed the crowd, she was greeted with thunderous applause. Shepard said she and Matthew spoke about gay marriage before his death, and she knew he was proud now and "looking down" at the celebration.

Judy Shepard and Mark Cornelson Headed to the altar Marriage-bound

The Matthew Shepard Foundation was one of the sponsors of the event, and the foundation's message, "Erase Hate," was engraved on pendants designed by New York jeweler Udi Behr and passed out to couples and attending celebs like a dapper T.R. Knight (no word yet on whether he and boyfriend Mark Cornelson will be heading to the chapel).

Gay and straight stars like Sally Kirkland, Queer as Folk's Thea Gill and Michelle Clunie, Dirty Sexy Money's Candis Cayne (she promised to register to vote in California so she could help defeat the November ballot initiative that would amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage -- she's still a New Yorker), and reality stars like Reichen Lehmkuhl and his gorgeous boyfriend, Ryan Barry, milled about in dapper suits and gowns.

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Jai Rodriguez fretted about his single status, saying, "If I ever had a long-term boyfriend, then maybe marriage will be something I will personally consider; right now it's not even on the agenda, but I think I should be allowed to get married. I think people like T.R. Knight should be allowed to marry."

From left: Michelle Clunie, Sally Kirkland, Thea Gill, and Kristen Renton Candis Cayne Reichen Lehmkuhl, David Cooley, and Ryan Barry

Knight gave a short speech to the crowd -- he's getting really good at his recently adopted role as advocate (political future, maybe?). Joining Knight onstage were West Hollywood mayor Jeffrey Prang, Abbey owner David Cooley, and Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, original litigants in the case heard by the California supreme court that legalized same-sex marriage in the state in May. Tyler announced she and Olsen would be getting married on June 17, the first day licenses will be handed out to same-sex couples. "You're all invited!" Tyler bellowed.

After whipping the crowd into a frenzy, everyone was told to shush so a group of couples could walk down a pink carpet strewn with petals. About 20 twosomes -- gay, lesbian, and straight -- strode down hand in hand. As "Canon in D" played, Prang officiated: "Your joined hands are outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual bond signifying to all your commitment to each other and your commitment in vowing to vote and protect your right to love." Each couple sealed it with a kiss.

Jai Rodriguez Believe it or not, these two are getting married. T.R. Knight with Cornelson

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