LOS ANGELES — Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo have waited four and a half years for the moment they experienced at 6:25 p.m. Friday night, when Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pronounced the two legally married.
"Equal feels different," said Zarrillo after the ceremony, wiping tears from his eyes. "Equal feels good."
With a simple exchange of vows, a few happy tears, and a mutually uttered "We do," Zarrillo and Katami became the first same-sex couple legally married in Los Angeles County after the Supreme Court formally struck down California's Proposition 8 on Wednesday. Just 48 hours after that ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals announced it was lifting the stay on a federal judge's 2010 decision invalidating Prop. 8 as unconstitutional and confirmed that same-sex couples in California could begin marrying immediately.
Even the two California couples who served as plaintiffs in the federal case that struck down the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage (known as Hollingsworth v. Perry) were caught by surprise when the Ninth Circuit announced that marriages could resume in California immediately. Zarrillo and Katami, along with fellow plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, heard the news via text message — then jumped into action to acquire marriage licenses and get dressed up for their long-awaited legal wedding. Perry and Stier were married an hour earlier Friday afternoon in San Francisco.
"Never have I been more proud, and never have I been more joyful, than I am today," said Villaraigosa in his opening remarks delivered in a high-ceilinged press room on the third floor of Los Angeles City Hall. Weddings had ended in Los Angeles after the ban on same-sex marriage was passed by voters in 2008. Villaraigosa was an early, outspoken supporter of marriage equality, and noted that officiating the first same-sex marriage in Los Angeles after the victory was a fitting way to close out his mayoral term, which formally ends at midnight on Sunday.
On the wall above the couple an apt quote from Cicero read, "Fidelity is the foundation of justice."
Asked about the legacy his family will leave in the fight for marriage equality, Zarrillo was humble. "I just hope we did a little to change the path toward equality," he said. "The opportunity to right a wrong was there."
"I wouldn't want to change a thing [about the past four years]," said Katami.