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LAX courthouse: 'I would be so heartbroken if they take it away from us again'

June 17, 2008 |  1:05 pm

Valerie Palomarez, 29, of Torrance has been with her partner April Palomarez, 35, a construction worker with the Coast Guard, for six years.

She took April’s last name when she registered with the DMV, but she wanted to be married, a childhood dream.

"April, this, is my dream come true, she said, as the couple waited, first in line at the Airport Courthouse for a marriage license. "Like my mom and dad, I found someone to take care of me."

Both women are Latinas who grew up in low-income families. April was raised in Compton. She shaves her head, wears men’s clothes and said she passes as a man on her job, where she works as a foreman and uses the nickname "Ray Ray." The women worry about harassment, but say their families and friends accept them. And they plan to start in vitro fertilization procedures next year to have their first child.

They were married in San Francisco on Feb. 26, 2004, during the first wave of gay unions, which was annulled by court action. They brought the S.F. certificate with them to the Airport Courthouse Ton uesday morning. "We made history then, we're going to make history again," April said.

She pulled a studio snapshot from her wallet, a sepia-tone photo of the couple taken in San Francisco. In that shot, April wears a watch cap, vest and tie, while Valerie is in a lace dress, pearls and a hat with an enormous rose. This time around, the couple dressed more casually, with April in a Sean John polo shirt, shorts and sneakers, and Valerie  in a tank top, shorts and flip-flops,  her long hair loose.

Valerie was surprised to see the San Francisco photo worn from being handled. "I'm glad you had that in there, Honey," Valerie said. Replied April: "I always carry it."

April has Valerie's name tattooed on her neck. Valerie said she has "Ray Ray" tattooed on her chest, "over my heart."

Not everyone in their live approves, though. April said their landlord always notifies prospective tenants that the couple is gay. "The world is already so negative," April said. "Just to be able to say you're married is an honor."

The two worry about the November ballot initiative seeking to overturn gay marriage. “If the ballot initiative passes, I would be so heartbroken if they take it away from us again,” Valerie said. “They’re playing with our emotions."

But today is a time for celebration, starting tonight with an evening barbecue.

"I feel validated," Valerie said. "I'm not ashamed to be like, 'This is my wife.' My mother's dream came true and I am going to be able to have babies."

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske