By Aimee Lewis Strain
Bay City News Service
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling dismissing the Proposition 8 appeal and likely making way for same-sex weddings to resume in California has many throughout the state rejoicing -- including on the Peninsula, where a longtime supervisor-turned-assemblyman called it a dream come true for the LGBT community.
State Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, who chairs the Legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus, called Wednesday a day of celebration. "With the Supreme Court's announcements, we are realizing that dream and we now celebrate equal marriage rights for all Californians," he said.
Gordon married his partner of 26 years when same-sex weddings were briefly legal in 2008, calling it one of the greatest days of his life, when he was able to announce to his loved ones that they were a family.
Mountain View resident Shannon Casey, a parent advocate with the Our Family Coalition, is basking in the glory resulting from the hard work that went into efforts to overturn Proposition 8. She and her partner of 16 years were married in Vancouver, B.C., in 2003. While she doesn't see a need to get married again, she said the couples' two children, ages 9 and 12, are requesting a big wedding reception.
"My family and I are incredibly excited for the loving, committed relationship my partner and I have shared for the last 16 years to finally be recognized by our country," she said.
She said one positive byproduct of the ruling is that it will help the anti-bias work she does in schools, pointing out that such work will only be improved by "our country's support of our marriages."
Steve Epstein, a Burlingame human resources professional, has been married to his partner for five years and the couple has been together for nine. He said he and his partner were one of the roughly 18,000 couples granted a state marriage license in 2008.
"I am thrilled about today's ruling. I have always felt for the people who are in loving and committed relationships and want to get married but cannot," Epstein said. "Every day sooner that we can make that happen is good. I hope it can be in a couple of days."
But he pointed out that while the Proposition 8 decision is a huge step in the right direction, more work needs to be done to ensure equal rights and benefits for same-sex partners. "There are a lot of details that still need to be worked out. We need tax fairness and recognition of marriage in other states," he said.
San Mateo County held its first PRIDE event on June 15 with nearly 300 people in attendance, according to Pacifica resident Susan Takalo, who co-organized the San Mateo County PRIDE Initiative. The San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services sponsored the event. She said the LGBT community in San Mateo County is just starting to blossom and the ruling makes that community stronger.
"Our community is just coming together -- San Mateo County is mostly a bedroom community and not very visible and 'out,'" she said. "Lots of people in our community are married and (the ruling is) acknowledging the work we've done and our relationships and I think it's really fabulous."
She said the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors has been supportive of the strides the LGBT community has made. She said she hopes to have the second annual PRIDE event in San Mateo in June 2014.
The Rev. Terry Echelbarger of San Mateo's Peninsula Metropolitan Community Church, a diverse congregation comprised primarily of LGBT people with about 10 percent of its congregation heterosexual, said her congregation is "overjoyed" by the ruling.
"It's been 45 years since Metropolitan Community Church's Rev. Troy Perry performed the first public same-gender wedding in the U.S. and it's 43 years since he filed the first lawsuit in the U.S. seeking legal recognition of same-gender marriage," Mr. Echelbarger said. "God does not discriminate, but many states still do -- may we continue to work until all are free."
He and other members of the LGBT community, clergy and residents will meet in Redwood City at 5 p.m. Wednesday (June 26) to discuss the events of the day. The event will be held at 455 County Center, Redwood City.