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To love and to cherish

As soon as the doors opened Tuesday morning, the Nevada County Clerk-Recorder’s Office was filled with around 25 people who wanted to witness the county’s first same-sex wedding.

“Today is our chance to have the state recognize it,” Suzanne Doyle said after she and her partner of 13 years, Dian Schaffhauser, became the first gay couple to receive a wedding license in Nevada County at shortly after 8 a.m.

Before the day was over, a total of 18 same-sex couples received wedding licenses from the county office and six were married in brief ceremonies at the Rood Center, joining hundreds of others statewide who took advantage of a May 15 Supreme Court decision that legalized the marriages.



Doyle and Schaffhauser were joined in their ceremony by their five-year-old son, Kit, as well as a contingent of friends and other supporters.

“There are many negative things in the world. But people who want to affirm their affection and commitment to each other can’t be anything but good,” said Warren Knox, who took pictures of the couple’s ceremony.




By 10:30 a.m., another five same-sex couples had a exchanged vows in a room with folding chairs, a small table displaying chocolate candy kisses in champagne glasses, and an archway of flowers that framed the couples. Each couple was given a pair of roses provided by a Grass Valley church.

All of the civil ceremonies were officiated by county employees, including three by Clerk-Recorder Gregory Diaz.

“Obviously, we did many more today than we do on a normal day,” Diaz said. “But we had prepared for the rush, and I’m just proud of our office for keeping it together and giving the couples a good experience.”

All the couples interviewed Tuesday said the weddings affirmed their long relationships while making a statement that gays deserve to be treated the same as others.

“Our devotion couldn’t be any stronger,” said Janet West, who married her partner of 24 years, Teri Carsten. “We’re only asking for the same opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the public.”

“I didn’t think we’d ever get it done,” added Carsten, who needed a wheelchair to get around although she was standing to receive applause from a roomful of supporters after the ceremony.

Joan Moore and Tomi Kitchen of Grass Valley have been a couple for 39 years and are registered domestic partners in California. For them, Tuesday was an opportunity to encourage other gay couples to follow their lead.

“We’re just like everybody else. Why can’t we have the same rights?” Moore said. “Love is love no matter who the person is.”

The Rev. Jerry Farrell, an associate minister of the Unity of Gold Country church, was among those who filled the clerk-recorder’s office at 8 a.m. to witness history. The Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains of Grass Valley and the Quaker meeting church also had members at the Rood Center to either serve as witnesses or lend support.

“I have a personal interest, and I’m also here as a religious figure,” said Farrell, who will officiate a wedding in Nevada City for Jim Richards, 61, and Charlie Landau, 58, the second gay couple to receive a wedding license in the county.

Richards, who has a been with Landau for 21 years, said he doesn’t understand the backlash against same-sex marriages.

“Why is this such an issue for some Christians?” Richards asked. “Fundamentalists talk about love and understanding, but I have not heard much love from them. We’re celebrating love and love is not a negative thing.”

Like other couples who were there Tuesday, Gregg Lee and Jim Ellison had planned to get married three years ago in San Francisco but missed that opportunity when the courts stopped same-sex weddings there.

But now, after 14 years as a couple, they were pleased to exchange vows in Nevada County while citing two counties that have so far refused to hold civil ceremonies.

“After what is happening in Butte and Kern counties, we really waited for Nevada County’s response,” Lee, 43, said. “It’s turned out to be love and acceptance.”

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail pbutler@theunion.com or call 477-4239.


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