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Oakland: 'This is all kind of surreal'

June 17, 2008 | 12:34 pm

Louis Timphony, 59, and James Gormley, 63, had waited 35 years for the chance to get married. Today, they arrived at the Alameda County Clerk’s Office before the doors opened, eager to be among the first gay couples to be wed in a civil ceremony.

Timphony, a field worker for the state Department of Social Services, and Gormley, a commercial real estate broker, said they didn’t want to wait any longer, just in case the law changes again.

"This is all kind of surreal," Gormley said. "We expected right up until this morning someone to come running in and say, ‘We’ve changed our minds.’ ” After the two men went inside, they waited in line to fill out an application for a wedding license.

It was an outdated form that listed one as the groom and the other as the bride, but they didn’t notice. Then, as they waited to pay $134 for the license and ceremony, Timphony realized they didn’t have rings. "I’ll just switch this one over and then you can buy me a new one," he told Gormley.

As they waited again for the ceremony, Timphony leafed through the booklet titled "Your Future Together," which all couples are given. There was a section on family planning and another on genetic diseases. "I hope they get this updated," he said.

Timphony said they first met in San Francisco’s Castro District on Jan. 21, 1973, at 2 a.m., just after the bars had closed. "His line was, ‘Have you seen the moon tonight?' " Timphony said.

They have been together ever since. When the California Supreme Court ruled last month that same-sex marriages were legal, Timphony said he began to cry and asked Gormley to marry him. "Some people scream and yell that this is going to destroy the sanctity of marriage," he said, "but our relationship has lasted longer than those of the religious fanatics, who change their women like underwear."

It was time for the ceremony. Timphony wearing a dark gray suit and red tie, and Gormley, wearing a light gray suit and yellow tie, vowed to forsake all others, to love and comfort each other and to take each other as their "lawfully wedded spouse." Gormley placed the ring on Timphony’s finger and pronounced, "With this ring, I thee wed." They gave each other a quick kiss and a hug. A few minutes later, a clerk handed them their marriage certificate.

Rather than identifying them as bride and groom, it listed them as Party A and Party B. "That’s it. We’re done," Timphony said, proudly holding the document. "If the fundamentalists get their way, at least I will always have this." As they were leaving, a local reporter asked them why they got married. "Because we could," they answered together.

--Richard C. Paddock