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Something Old, Somthing New in California Weddings

California's State Supreme Court decreed same-sex marriage legal in May and thousands of gay couples have headed to the altar this summer. Essayist Anne Taylor Flemming reflects on the old and the new in this wave of nuptials.

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  • ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING, NewsHour Essayist:

    On July 4th of this year, these two long-time partners, Kathryn Kuntz and Kathryn Fulton, said their "I dos" in the backyard of their home in Sonoma, Calif., surrounded by friends and family, the two grown sons of one of the women acting as witnesses.

    Not so long ago, I attended just such a wedding. It was my first. You shake your head. You smile as the minister announces that, yes, the two women standing before you are now legally wed.

    It is the summer of such weddings here in my home state. They've been going on at a fair clip ever since the California State Supreme Court made its landmark ruling in late May allowing same-sex marriages.

    Google "gay marriage in California" and you find a host of ads like these: "Wed in Beautiful Mendocino," "Act Fast, Before it's Too Late" or "Indoor and Lakeside Settings, On-Site Planners and Catering."

    There are wine country packages, and beach resort packages, and desert packages for the couples and their families and friends.

    In a down economic market, clearly the business of gay marriages is one of the up-trends here in California. Massachusetts — the other state that legalized such unions — is jealously trying to ramp up its gay and lesbian wedding commerce. That might strike some as amusing and others as troubling.


    … keep the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.


    Come mothers and fathers throughout the land and don't criticize what you can't understand…


    Passions about the gay marriage issue seemed to cool down somewhat in the past couple of years. One of those long-contested social controversies, it quieted with anxiety about the war and the economy, though it was always there, being tussled over by partisans on both sides.

    Then came the court decision here, and the heat went back up. In response, the anti-same-sex marriage brigade got the requisite million signatures to put Proposition 8 on the November ballot, which would amend the state constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.

    As of now, polls show the proposition going down to defeat. Interestingly enough, there is not much difference in the opinions of young and old. In short, it's not a generational issue. So far now, it seems clear that California is poised to stay in the same-sex marriage business.

    Having lived here all my life, having watched my complicated, cutting-edge, sometimes conservative home state wrestle with various hot-button issues, from immigration to the "three strikes and you go to jail forever" law, I am prepared to watch this tussle play out, the passions on both sides.

    But, meanwhile, I will go to these weddings when asked, and lift my glass to the couples embarking on such a commitment, and wish them well in the extraordinary adventure that is any marriage.

    I'm Anne Taylor Fleming.