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06.18.08

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Photograph by Will Mosher
License to Thrill: Dinah Phillips, left, and Gail Groves receive the state-issued copy of 'Your Future Together' that accompanied their marriage license on June 17.

I Now Pronounce You Party A and Party B

It was cheers and flowers as Santa Cruz County issued its first same-sex marriage license on June 17.

By Traci Hukill


Laura Bell and Eden White were a collective bundle of nerves. As a crush of well-wishers surged down the fifth floor of the county building toward the Redevelopment Agency room, where a rose-festooned gazebo and trays full of cupcakes awaited the county's first same-sex marriage ceremony under state law, the two stood pressed against the wall. Bell wore a tuxedo and bow tie, White wore a long white dress. Yes, they confirmed, they were nervous. They'd been planning this a long time.

"We've been together 12 years," said White. Bell added, "We made sure the legal stuff was in place, so we'd be ready as soon as something happened."

The May 15 ruling by the California Supreme Court granting marriage to same-sex couples guaranteed a huge Tuesday for Deputy County Clerk Kathy Wolf, who granted the county's historic first marriage license to Dinah Phillips and Gail Groves. "About 80," said Wolf when asked how many licenses she expected to issue that day. "It's going to be a very busy day. I'd say a normal week is somewhere between 50 and 60."

At her desk moments earlier, Phillips and Groves had signed the license, Phillips as "Party A," Groves as "Party B." The pair, partners for 26 years, yukked it up over the little purple booklet on marriage that Wolf presented them as part of their license. The section titled "Healthy Choices When You Are Pregnant" was particular cause for mirth. Cameras flashed and friends hugged the newlyweds, who both wore pink roses.

It wasn't the first time Phillips and Groves had gotten married. In 2004, while in San Francisco for a coincidentally timed visit to the dentist, they'd gone to take a look at the same-sex nuptials taking place at City Hall and decided to jump in. But this time was different, said Phillips. With the court's protection, "This is the real deal."

Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty was in the lobby outside the county clerk's office, shaking his head. "This is great," he said. Later that day he planned to be deputized as a Commissioner of Marriage so he could legally officiate over the evening wedding at City Hall of assistant human resources director Joe McMullen. "This is my first one," said Coonerty, adding that he had thought about getting his Universal Life Ministry certificate online, but chose to go with the county process instead.

As they stepped out of the elevator onto the fifth floor, where their historic ceremony would take place, Phillips and Groves met a throng that showered them with cheers and rose petals. In the RDA room, they stood under the gazebo with friends as County Clerk and officiant Gail Pellerin spoke a few words.

As the cameras flashed, Pellerin talked about the depth of Phillips' and Groves' commitment, demonstrated most recently by illness. After her kidney failed, Groves got a transplant three months ago. "You really have been through it all," Pellerin said.

The county clerk also got the biggest laugh line of the day in her final comments before starting the ceremony.

"Dinah, on TV you talked about this being like The Wizard of Oz, where everything suddenly turns into Technicolor," she said. "It's clear to me: we're certainly not in Kansas anymore."


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