Colman Domingo
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Equality Begins in California

            Equality Begins in California

More than 55
years after they first met, longtime partners and human
rights activists Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 83, at
5:01 Monday night became the first same-sex couple to
be married in San Francisco. The women's nuptials
kicked off what is expected to be a crush of weddings
on Tuesday -- following a California supreme court ruling
last month that legalized gay marriage.

Phyllis Lyon Del Martin get married (Getty x395) | Advocate.comL

Martin and Lyon
were wedded in a private ceremony in the office of San
Francisco mayor Gavin Newson. Debra Chasnoff, executive
director of GroundSpark (formerly Women's Educational
Media), was among the guests invited to witness the
historic moment. As the couple took their vows,
Chasnoff said it was "momentous," to stand shoulder to
shoulder with gay icons such as Roberta
Achtenberg, Donna Hitchens, Nancy Davis, Margie Adam,
and Mark Leno.

Chasnoff had
witnessed the couple's first ceremony in 2004. "The
first one felt more emotional. It was such an act of courage
of Mayor Newsom," she said. "This time I felt more
confident that it won't be taken away. This time it
really felt like history was being made."

Outside the
mayor's office, the mood was both celebratory and anxious as
throngs of media and well-wishers stood crammed in the
rotunda, waiting for San Francisco's first gay
couple to come out. Sophie, 14, and her 10-year-old
sister Naomi were among the supporters. "We’re
just so excited to be here," said Sophie, who was there with
her father and two friends. Though her parents aren't
gay, she said, she and her sister just "wanted to
support what was going on."

Moments later the
crowd cheered as Lyon emerged from the office pushing
Martin in her wheelchair. "When we first got together, we
weren't thinking about getting married," Lyon joked
before thanking Newsom, who had presided over the

"Marriage as an
institution has been strengthened today," Newsom said,
as well-wishers showered red and white rose petals on Martin
and Lyon. "This is the first day we are providing
marriage -- fully and fairly -- to everyone."

Lyon and Martin
cut the first piece of cake, designed by San Francisco
pastry chef Elizabeth Falkner, before handing over the knife
to Kate Kendell of the National Center for Lesbian
Rights. "Everyone understands history has been made --
history of the most profound kind," said Kendell. "A
vision of inclusion and equality has been realized."

Nearly 400 miles
south in Beverly Hills, Robin Tyler and Diane Olson
made similar history on the steps of the court house
when, at 5:01, the couple became the first
same-sex couple to say "I do" in Los Angeles County.

Tyler literally
said "I do," while her partner of 15 years ad-libbed,
"Absolutely! I adore her." And with that, the
betrothed couple's family, friends, and supporters whooped,
hollered, and applauded.

"I knew our day
would come," Olson said, following the ceremony
officiated by Rabbi Denise Eger of West Hollywood's Kol
Ami Synagogue. "I am a married woman."

Tyler, 66, and
Olson, 54, returned to the Beverly Hills Courthouse,
which Tyler has called "ground zero in the fight for
same-sex marriage" and where the couple has
unsuccessfully tried to obtain a marriage license
every Valentine's Day for the past eight years.

When acting Los
Angeles County registrar-recorder and county clerk Dean
Logan announced Thursday that he would issue an early
marriage license to Tyler and Olson, the couple dove
right in to planning their nuptials.

"We're getting
kind of giddy," Tyler said Saturday, as she and Olson
juggled wedding plans and questions from the media. "We
don't need the trappings. We need the legal rights,"
continued Tyler about her historic wedding. "We have a
great relationship but, need marriage or not, we want
it. We're making these typical wedding decisions and
we're having fun."

Tyler and Olson
were plaintiffs on one of the lawsuits that led to the
recent overturn in favor gay marriage. Their lawyer,
same-sex marriage advocate Gloria Allred, held Tyler's
and Olson's rings for them beside the huppah, propped
up by the couple's close friends and members of
the LGBT community.

"It's a pleasure
to be a part of the wedding," said Allred. "We fought
for four years to win, and it's an honor and a privilege
to give them the rings."

Gloria Allred, left, with newlyweds Tyler and

On the steps of
the courthouse, flanked by loved ones, the media, and a
handful of naysayers -- whose protests drowned under a sea
of enthusiastic support from the crowd -- Tyler and
Olson, dressed in complimentary cream-colored outfits,
held one another closely throughout the ceremony.

"I'm elated and
thrilled for Robin and Diane," Rabbi Eger said
following the nuptials. "You could feel the history, and I
could feel the justice today."

A longtime
activist for gay rights and same-sex marriage, it's fitting
that Tyler, who has been on the front lines of the battle
for gay marriage since the 1970s, paved the way to
marriage equality on Monday with Olson.

For Olson,
the wedding wasn't an end to a long battle for marriage
equality but the beginning of something even more powerful.
"I think this town -- the state -- is going to light
up," she said. "You can't fight love." (Sue Rochman in
San Francisco and Tracy Gilchrist in Los
Angeles, The Advocate)

Tags: World, World

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