Legally married California gays have bittersweet anniversary

Joseph Weems and Randall Won celebrated their first anniversary with a low-key weekend barbecue for friends at their Land Park home. Ellen Pontac and Shelly Bailes sipped mango mimosas, then took a walk around Davis and had a quiet dinner. Laurie Warren and Seanain Snow didn't celebrate at all.

"Until everybody who wants to has the legal right to marry, it's a very small token to us that our marriage is legal," said Snow, 39, a stay-at-home mom who lives in Davis.

A bittersweet season of first anniversaries began last week for an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples across California, married during what turned out to be a five-month legal window before voters passed Proposition 8 in November.

For the state's gay and lesbian couples, getting married depends more on the courts and the electorate than on romantic proposals and elaborate wedding plans.

In May 2008, the state Supreme Court ruled that California's ban on same-sex marriage was illegal, opening the door for a summer and early fall of gay and lesbian weddings. Proposition 8, which passed by a 52 percent margin, reinstated the ban.

Late last month, the state Supreme Court upheld both Proposition 8 – which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman – and the marriages of same-sex couples who legally wed between June 16 and Nov. 4 last year.

"It's unfortunate that the court turned down our request (in May 2008) to put off its decision until the people had a chance to vote on Prop. 8, which would have avoided this situation of having this small class of same-sex couples celebrating anniversaries," said Andrew Pugno, the Folsom attorney who drafted the ballot measure for the campaign.

"Perhaps the court did not believe the people would pass Prop. 8."

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