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Love Stories:
Leigh Grode and Joan Spitler

Love Stories:
Leigh Grode and Joan Spitler

Grode_spitler

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 cafe when a tall, butch, and handsome stranger walked in.

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 cafe 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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