Tom Daley
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Love Stories:
Leigh Grode and Joan Spitler

Love Stories:
            Leigh Grode and Joan Spitler

Married: June 17,
2008 Together: 15 years

The first meeting
of performance artist Joan Spitler and filmmaker Leigh
Grode was right out of a romantic comedy. It was 1993,
during the Los Angeles gay and lesbian film festival
Out on the Screen. Spitler, a lissome redhead, was
sitting alone in the festival’s café when a
tall, butch, and handsome stranger walked in -- so
fixed on Spitler that she plowed into a table and
knocked it over. “She watched me embarrass
myself,” Grode admits. “I was absolutely
terrified of this woman. I was falling in love, and I
didn’t know who she was.”

“We shook
hands,” Spitler says, “and I thought,
Here’s somebody who can change your
life.” After the two moved in together 18 months
later, they held down day jobs, Grode at a nonprofit,
Spitler as a cake decorator. Soon they saw a way to
pool their talents into a business of their own --
making wedding cakes. They christened their company Cake
Divas. “It was our first legal
partnership,” Spitler says.

“The irony
of it all is, I must have made over 1,600 wedding cakes over
the last 15, 20 years, and I couldn’t get
married,” Spitler says. “I was
constantly surrounded by heterosexual couples who were going
through this process that I wasn’t privy
to.”

Grode and Spitler
have considered themselves married since they exchanged
vows in 1995 at an elaborate 350-guest commitment ceremony.
Still, for Grode, something was missing. “At my
brother’s wedding, I remember crying as I
walked down the aisle. I always wanted the Jewish wedding. I
wanted to get married under a chuppah.”

On the morning of
June 17, the first day marriage was legally available
in California for most same-sex couples, Grode and Spitler
arrived at West Hollywood Park along with some 200
other couples. Among the officials performing
ceremonies all around the park was a lesbian rabbi
waiting to marry them, canopy and all.

“Once we
stood under that chuppah, it was as if I was standing in
this place and all these mirrors were breaking, like
we were breaking through every barrier right then and
there. We were doing it as Americans, and I was doing
it as a Jewish woman.”

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