At Los Angeles City Hall Friday evening, with outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa officiating and a throng of media as witnesses, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo said the words they'd fought four long years to say: “I do.”
A little more than two hours after a federal court lifted an injunction on gay marriages Friday afternoon, the Burbank couple who helped push Proposition 8 to the U.S. Supreme Court were officially married. Earlier in the day, the lesbian couple from Berkeley who were also plaintiffs in the case — Kris Perry and Sandy Stier — were married in San Francisco by California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris.
It was an incredible end to a long and arduous journey for a couple who were prevented from marrying in 2009 after voters approved Proposition 8, which defined marriage as being between a man and woman.
Just a few days earlier, Zarrillo and Katami were standing on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, where on Wednesday, the court delivered a one-two punch in support of gay rights, striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act while turning away the defenders of Proposition 8.
“Today is a great day to be American,” Zarrillo said to a throng of reporters outside the court.
In a brief telephone call that was put on speaker and carried live on MSNBC, President Obama told all four plaintiffs from Air Force One, “We're proud of you guys.”
Just before the call ended, Katami told Obama, “You're invited to the wedding.”
Two days later — after a rock-star welcome at a celebration in West Hollywood — Katami and Zarrillo didn't exactly have Obama on their guest list, but they had history, becoming the second same-sex couple, behind their plaintiff partners, to wed since a court stayed the injunction that ordered state officials to stop enforcing Proposition 8.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals took the unusual step earlier on Friday of lifting that stay, paving the way for gay marriages to resume.
With the court's action, counties can now begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
The scene would have seemed far out of reach just three years ago as Zarrillo gave tearful testimony during the original trial before U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker about being denied the right to marry Katami, his partner of more than a decade.
“He is the love of my life,” Zarrillo said.
Opponents of same-sex marriage have argued that Walker's 2010 decision overturning Proposition 8 applied only to the two same-sex couples who challenged the ballot measure. But the opponents' enthusiasm for going to court to try to narrow the effect of the decision appeared to wane in the hours after the decision.
On Wednesday, after the long and taxing legal battle, Zarrillo repeated to reporters the phrase he'd wanted to say under the cloak of marriage since being turned down by the state in 2009.
“I look forward to growing old with the man I love.”
On Friday, the growing started.
"On behalf of the state of California, let me pronounce you married," Villaraigosa said.
Los Angeles Times staff writers Maria La Ganga, Maura Dolan and Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report, as did City Editor Mark Kellam.