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License Denied, Women Start Legal Action

Times Staff Writer

Although Carmen and Dorothy Apodoca would like to marry with the government’s blessing, going to San Francisco this weekend never crossed their minds.

The Garden Grove couple think a government-sanctioned union would be only temporary because a court hearing today could nullify the more than 2,400 unions granted since Thursday.

“What’s happening in San Francisco is not legal,” said Dorothy Apodoca, 50. “They’re just pacifying the people and can yank the license at any time.”

The couple filed a claim against Orange County seeking $25 million in damages for violating their civil rights and inflicting emotional distress after the county clerk’s office denied their marriage license application Jan. 7.

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Due to the Presidents Day holiday, officials from the clerk’s office could not be reached for comment. In an interview before he opened the Old County Courthouse in Santa Ana for heterosexual couples to marry Saturday, Valentine’s Day, Orange County Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly said he would abide by state law and deny licenses to same-sex partners until overturned by the Supreme Court.

Marriage between gay couples is an issue of equality, the Apodocas say, not of sexuality.

“As soon as people can separate those two things, we’ll be in a better place,” said Carmen Apodoca, 52. “The Constitution says we’re equal, so no one out there has the right to dictate what we can do with our lives.”

Fighting for the permanent right to marry, rather than opting for what may be a fleeting act by the mayor of San Francisco, shows that their crusade isn’t just for themselves, the couple say. A legal wedding won’t change how they feel about each other, but it will provide them the security that their heterosexual counterparts have.

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The couple met eight years ago when both were working in San Jose. Dorothy has adopted Carmen’s two daughters, ages 13 and 14, as a stepmother, and continues to work while her partner stays at home with the children. All have taken Dorothy’s last name.

For them and other gay couples, they said, their fight to marry has given the institution of marriage increased significance. “Heterosexuals take marriage, kids, everything for granted,” Dorothy Apodoca said. “We take those things so much more seriously because we’ve had to struggle for them.”

The couple’s claim will probably be denied, paving the way for them to sue the county, said their attorney, Richard Gilbert.


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