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‘United in marriage’

Newport Beach couple ties knot after exchanging rings 33 years ago. Scene at Santa Ana courthouse draws protesters, media.

June 18, 2008|By Alan Blank

Many of the gay couples who walked up the steps of the old courthouse in Santa Ana to get married Tuesday have been committed partners for decades — perhaps none longer than Newport Beach couple Rich Videgain and Jim Carroll.

The spouses exchanged golden wedding rings as younger men in a car overlooking the city lights somewhere on the Palos Verdes Peninsula 33 years ago. Tuesday, they exchanged the same rings in a far less idyllic setting.

Cameramen swarmed the courthouse doors when they swung open at 8 a.m. A handful of protesters held signs and yelled slogans and the Orange County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, which grants marriage licenses and had taken 60 appointments — double its normal volume.

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“We tied the knot, and, after 33 years of traveling together and living together, this is still the person I want to spend the rest of my life with,” Videgain said.

The Rev. Karen Stoyanoff, the minister of the Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church in Costa Mesa, walked around the courthouse with a black stole draped around her neck adorned with pictures of a cross, a Star of David, a crescent moon and the symbols of three other religions.

Stoyanoff was one of a handful of clergy, mostly from nondenominational churches, offering to conduct marriage ceremonies for newlywed same-sex couples.

Dan Burton, who came out to protest the event, said he was vexed that ministers could condone an act that he believes is forbidden by the Bible. He carried a sign that read, “Legalizing sin will not save you on judgment day.”

“The reason I think it’s such an issue is that gays are trying to appropriate something that’s not theirs in nature,” Burton said.

Although the state Supreme Court ruling doesn’t confer many additional rights on gay partners — who already had rights, such as the ability to adopt children under California law — Burton said it legitimizes the act of same-sex unions, which church doctrine prohibits.

The Unitarian Universalists draw from many different doctrines, not just the Bible, and in this instance Stoyanoff says it’s a legal matter, not a religious one.

“We have many sources of wisdom in the Unitarian Universality church, and we don’t make distinctions among them,” she said. “We don’t say ‘Here is one piece of wisdom that is the right thing, and here is one that is the wrong thing.’”

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