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Bakersfield: 'History is made' with a double wedding

June 17, 2008 | 11:32 am


Doris Weddell of Bakersfield had double reason to celebrate. Two of her four daughters were exchanging vows just outside the Kern County clerk’s office.

Whitney Weddell, 43, and Tracy Weddell, 48, each took a legal spouse on a tree-shaded patio after filling out licenses. They had to use the outdoor forum, and volunteer ministers, because Kern County Clerk Ann Barnett had stopped performing all civil marriages before Tuesday.

Both Weddell sisters were thrilled that they could finally give their mother a reason to get dressed up. And Doris Weddell, 75, was just as happy.

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

Tracy Weddell, wearing a silk vest, exchanged vows with Sylvia Simms, 61, also in a vest. They’ve been together 26 years.

“It’s been the longest engagement ever,” said Simms.

Whitney Weddell was up next, exchanging vows with Lori Renee, 46.

"We’re all blushing brides,” said Whitney Weddell, a leader in Bakersfield’s gay-rights community. “I’m so excited. I love this woman.”

At least a dozen couples were wed by the volunteer officiants by 11 a.m. Molly McKay, an officiant from Marriage Equality Now, travelled from Oakland to join together Whitney and Lori. As she said, “I pronounce you legally married,” a crowd of 200 cheered and threw rose petals.

“History is made,” McKay said.

Charlotte Weddell, Whitney’s twin sister, who was also on hand, said she was cognizant of the day’s significance, especially in conservative Kern County.

“I don’t think they expected this to happen in our lifetime,” Charlotte Weddell said.

Shawn Brandon, 36, standing at the edge of the jubilant crowd, quietly snapped shots on his cell phone.

Brandon, who works as a marketing executive in downtown Bakersfield, had worried that things “might get ugly.”

However, there was no organized opposition in sight, save for a lone protester, whom police quickly escorted to the sidewalk.

“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 said. “I’m so relieved that it’s just a lot of people being happy.”

Those photos? He e-mailed them to a gay friend in San Francisco, with a text message: “Hey –- no hubbub.”

A few feet away in a county employee cafe, two young women walked from the outside marriage area snickering to each other.

“Don’t worry, this is only temporary,” one said to the other. They refused to provide their names.

-- Catherine Saillant

Photo: Sisters Tracy Weddell, right, and Whitney Weddell each married partners in Kern County today.

Photo credit: Brian VanderBrug/Los Angeles Times