Happiness prevails, despite a civic obstacle

Few moms get to see two daughters married within minutes of each other. Doris Weddell, 75, was ecstatic.

“I’m on a high,” she said. “This is way up there. It’s like childbearing.”

On a tree-shaded patio outside the Kern County clerk’s office, Whitney Weddell, 43, and Tracy Weddell, 48, each exchanged vows with their longtime partners. They had to use the outdoor venue and volunteer ministers, because Kern County Clerk Ann Barnett stopped all civil marriages in advance of Tuesday.

Tracy Weddell married Sylvia Simms, 61. The two, who wore vests, have been together 26 years. “It’s been the longest engagement ever,” Simms quipped.


Whitney Weddell, a leader in Bakersfield’s gay community, was up next, exchanging vows with Lori Renee, 46. “We’re all blushing brides,” she said. “I’m so excited, I love this woman.”

By noon, about 20 same-sex couples had been wed in the courtyard. Those gathered erupted in cheers as each couple was proclaimed legally married.

A lone protester held a sign that said in Spanish that marriage equals a man and a woman. She stood on the sidewalk for about half an hour and was mostly ignored by the crowd. But five county employees sitting nearby said they supported her.

At the edge of the crowd, Shawn Brandon, 36, snapped photos on his cellphone, e-mailing them to a gay friend in San Francisco with the message: “Hey -- no hubbub!”

“My biggest fear was that people would be yelling and screaming and Bakersfield would go down in history like the segregationists back in the ‘60s,” Brandon, a marketing executive, said. “I’m so relieved that it’s just a lot of people being happy.”

In fact, not everyone was pleased. A few feet away in a cafe for county employees, two young women snickered. “Don’t worry, this is only temporary,” said one to the other. They refused to provide their names.

-- Catherine Saillant