6:20 p.m. Protester Gone
The lone protester outside the clerk's office is gone, replaced by an enthusiastic family with a sign that reads, "Long Live Love." They cheer every couple who emerges from the building."Congratulations!"
"We're justs here to cheer everyone on," they said.
6:06 p.m. Joy
Cheers and applause erupt from various conference rooms where other weddings are being performed. One couple is asked how they feel now that it's over. "Legal!" one woman said.
Down in the lobby, more couples are still waiting to be called for licenses. Karen Boyd and Samee Roberts, who both work for the CIty of Oakland, were holding number 380. "They're still on 378," Boyd said. " So we're close."
The two met nine years ago, and got to know each other during the public dedication of Frank Ogawa Plaza. They had a spiritual commitment ceremony in 2003. Then signed up for a domestic partnership. Then got a license in San Francisco in 2004, which was revoked. "We decided we'd keep doing this until it sticks," Boyd said.
5:45 p.m. Oops!
A mistake on the first license! Broadwee forgot to put his mother's maiden name. Appel had someone working on the correction, and was seeking out the witnesses to sign the license again.
5:25 p.m. The First Marriage is Performed
It's Kenneth Latham and Keith Broadwee. A cluster of TV cameras escorted them into the wedding room on the second floor of the clerk's building. Janet Appel, deputy marriage commissioner, asked them if they had their own vows or wanted traditional. They opted for traditional.
Appel steered the couple over in front of a decorative screen, surrounded by white and silver balloons.
"We are gathered here today for the purpose of uniting Kevin and Keith," Appel said. "You'll be partners, standing together to cushion the difficulties of life. No other human ties are more tender.
"Do you, Kenneth, take Keith to be your lawful wedded spouse?"
He responded with an eager, "I do!"
Then same for Broadwee, and Appel had them repeat their vows.
"I promise to love and comfort you in sisckness and in health," Broadwee said. "For richer, for poorer. For better and for worse. And forsaking all others, be faithful to you as long as I live."
Their friend Tom brought forth the rings. Broadwee's was a little tight. "Twist and turn it," he instructed a flustered Kenneth. "Mine only fits on my pinkie," he joked.
Then Appel announced the historic words, "By virtue of the authority vested in my by the State of California, and Alameda County, I now pronounce you a married couple."
Hoots and cheers rose up from their witnessess and friends as they kisses. News cameras flashed. "I need a drink!" Broadwee said.
5:01 p.m. Licenses are Issued
"If you have an appointment, it's not necessary to get a number," the county's Hing announced to a hushed crowd. "If you don't, we'll try to accommodate you as best we can."
The doors to the clerk's office opened, names were called of those who had made reservations, and people went to the designated counters. Couples would then go upstairs to the wedding rooms.
4:55 p.m. Lobby Brimming with Couples
It's a festive atmosphere, full of anticipation. About 100 people crowd the lobby, couples, friends, witnesses, kids. Huda and Deanna Jadallah-Karraa (using their hyphenated soon-to-be-married name) were fussing with a bouquet of bright flowers, splitting them up among their three children. Little Hind, 7, is in a pretty red-satin dress. Twins Omar and Hady, both 10, (except Omar is one-minute older) resemble the "Men in Black," looking sharp in their crisp suits and ties.
Deanna and Huda have been together for 17 years, and that's why Omar feels they should definitely get hitched. "Because they've been together a really long time," he said.
People snapped photos. TV cameras roamed the lobby.
4:45 p.m. Protesters Start to Arrive
One man is standing in front of the county clerk's building with a large "Gay = Pervert" sign. A same-sex couple entering the building said, "Shame on you," to him, and he replied with the same line.
4:30 p.m. Couples Start to Arrive
Even though the clerk's offices will close at 4:30 p.m. and reopen at 5, same-sex couples are already crowding the lobby - some who plan to get their licenses here and then rush over to City Hall to have Mayor Dellums marry them, some who plan to have the civil ceremony here in the wedding rooms and overflow conference rooms at the clerk's office, and others who are just picking up their licenses for private ceremonies to be held in the next few weeks.
Dignan Banes and Will Jennings of Oakland are waiting in the lobby, dressed in matching black suits, red shirts and rainbow-striped ties. They plan to race over to City Hall after getting their official licenses.
"It was really important to us to get married here in our own county," Banes said. "It really shows the range of ages, races and the full spectrum of Alameda County's diversity."
Banes and Jennings have been together for six years. "But we've been waiting for this forever," Jennings said. "Sixty-three years for me and 37 for him. So collectively 100 years."
Keith Broadwee, 46, and Kenny Latham, 47, are sitting on a bench in the lobby. Broadwee is in a plaid blazer with a bold striped tie, and Latham in a pale-blue jacket. Bright pink carnations on their lapels signal their affilliation. "Oh no! My button's come off!" Broadwee exclaimed. "Maybe we can find a safety pin," Latham offered. The disaster did not taint their joy, however.
"This is so exciting," Broadwee sasid. "It's all about civil rights. I feel like there's a shift going on in society and culture. so many youner people are getting involved in supporting this kind of effort. It's an exciting time."
4:15 p.m. Preparations are in place
Hing likened today's crush of ceremonies to a typical Valentine's Day. Ususally on a V-Day, the clerk's office sees a good 75 to 80 licenses and weddings. And as on a V-Day, workers in the clerk's office have set up a little "reception" area with paper plates on a table with a silver cloth in the hallway outside the wedding rooms. They have little cupcakes and brownies ready to go for the couples after they wed.
4 p.m. Competition
There seems to be a little competition going on as to who will be performing the first same-sex ceremony in Alameda County. Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums announced at an earlier press conference that he'd perform the "first" ceremony at 6 p.m. at City Hall. But Kevin Hing at the clerk's office said his office will begin issuing licenses at 5:01 p.m. and performing the "first" ceremony at about 5:15 p.m.
"The city of Oakland is doing a whole separate thing," he said.3:30 p.m. - The Media Frenzy Begins
Even before the couples began to arrive, satellite trucks from various media outlets queued up along the curb outside the county clerk's office building on Madison and 11th Street in downtown Oakland. TV cameras were poised in the second-floor "wedding room" of the clerk's office.
Hing, breaking free from an interview with one reporter, graciously turned to another. "We're trying to make sure everyone is served properly today," he said.
Hing said, because the county only took appointments for ceremonies, he has no idea how many couples will arrive tonight to apply for licenses. "Calls have been coming in every five minutes since this morning," he said.
Twenty-two ceremonies are scheduled for this evening, beginning after 5 p.m. Kevin Hing, chief clerk of the recorder's office, also expects numerous walk-ins all evening. The office will be open late until 8 p.m.
For more, go to the On Assignment Blog.