Gay marriage: Woman with terminal cancer finally weds despite delay


After a five-year ban on same-sex weddings in California, Los Angeles County issued a total of 621 marriage licenses countywide Monday and conducted more than 100 civil ceremonies at county offices in Norwalk, according to the registrar-recorder’s office.

No breakdown was available on the number of licenses issued to same-sex couples alone.

West Hollywood, which has the highest concentration of gay residents in Los Angeles County, offered free wedding ceremonies outside its City Council chambers for much of Monday.


Fear of another sudden reversal in the law drove many to the altar. Others had more pressing concerns.

Two brothers from Reseda sat in red lawn chairs at the entrance to the City Council chambers, having staked out the prime position so their aunts, Helen Andersen and Pam Holt, could have the first wedding of the day on Monday.

Holt has terminal cancer and can’t be on her feet for long. They all know time is of the essence. More than a year ago, Holt’s doctor told her she had three months to live, said Tyler Mead, 21, one of the brothers.

“They’ve been waiting 18 years for this,” Mead said. “I’d wait days in this line for them.”

When Pachelbel’s Canon in D wafted out of the speaker system, Mead laughed with joy. “That’s awesome,” he said. “I’ve been holding back tears all day.”

By midday, the brothers learned there was a problem at the recorder-registrar’s office in Lancaster, where Andersen and Holt had gone early that morning to get their marriage license. Holt’s state-issued identification had expired in March. She was undergoing chemotherapy and hadn’t been able to renew it.

She brought her expired ID, a temporary paper ID and a birth certificate, but none was acceptable.

The couple drove to the Beverly Hills courthouse. Same problem.

They worried they would have to wait several more weeks to marry, they told their nephews after they arrived in West Hollywood. Holt walked slowly and sank into a red lawn chair. Sweat dripped from her forehead.

Austin Mead took her hand. “Aunt Pam, it’s going to happen today,” he told her. “You know it is.”

A city spokeswoman rushed up to the family and told them to go back to Beverly Hills. Los Angeles County Recorder-Registrar Dean Logan -- who, minutes before, had deputized West Hollywood City Council members to officiate marriages -- would call on the couple’s behalf.

“Take a deep breath,” the spokeswoman told Holt. “It’s going to happen today.”

The women came back an hour later wearing smiles on their faces and new outfits.

As they took their places under a white awning, City Councilman John Duran asked them how long they’d been together. Eighteen and a half years, they said.

Holt and Andersen held hands as Duran read their vows. Holt’s head was covered in sweat, but both women smiled as Duran pronounced them legally wed spouses.

“You may now kiss the brides!” Duran shouted.

They kissed. And held a long hug. Then they sighed with relief.

“I can’t believe it,” Holt said softly. When a reporter asked Holt if Andersen was her partner, she corrected him: “This is my wife.”


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