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Several Gay Couples In California Say Vows Before Election Day

This story was written by Emily Grospe, Daily Californian

After spending 15 years together and raising two children, Johnny Symons and his partner William Rogers, who always knew they wanted to get married, finally formalized their commitment last Wednesday-but were unable to make wedding plans on their own schedule.

Like many other couples, Symons and Rogers said they were prompted to marry quickly, threatened with the possibility that Proposition 8, if passed by voters Tuesday, would eliminate that right.

"In a sense, we really didn't have the opportunity to talk about what our ideal wedding would be," Symons said. "The Supreme Court decision (on same-sex marriage) came along suddenly, and from the minute it was announced, there was a threat it would be taken away."

While Symons and Rogers purchased their wedding rings in 2001, the hundreds of gay county residents who have gotten married in recent weeks have actually caused a small upswing in the business of some local jewelers.

The marriage index of the Alameda County Clerk-Recorder's Office showed that Symons and Rogers' wedding was one of at least 15 other same-sex couples who legalized their marriage on Oct. 29. On Oct. 1, only three of the weddings were same-sex couples.

While many luxury businesses have struggled in the present economy, some jewelry businesses said they have benefitted from same-sex marriage legalization.

Melissa Rallis, owner of Kiss My Ring on San Pablo Avenue, said she has always had a gay client base, but she has seen an increase of same-sex couples seeking rings as the election nears.

"I've always had a diverse customer base, and a lot of these customers happen to be gay couples-I would say 10 percent higher in the last couple of months," she said.

Rallis said she believed her business would probably experience more same-sex customers investing in rings if Proposition 8 is struck down.

But Anne Flexer, owner of Edelweiss Jewelers on College Avenue, said that while she has seen an average of two serious gay couples visiting each day, it has not been enough to significantly help her business. She said the economic slump makes it difficult to track the number of gay couples coming in.

"Retail is depressed right now, so this is not a time to gage. People don't have money, even gay couples," she said. "The state of economy is stronger than people's will to get married and spend money."

Symons said all the future and current same-sex couples who have yet to be married would be helping out California's economy.

"It's money for the jewelers whose rings they buy (along with) flowers, gifts, cards, caterers, and it's sales tax which goes directly into the state's economy," he said. "All of that translates into dollars for a state that really needs it."

When the California Supreme Court ruled to allow same-sex marriage on June 16, the number of total weddings jumped from an average of 60 weddings per week to 132 the week following the decision, said Kevin Hing, chief of the clerk-recorder's office.

He said that the office has received about three call inquiries each day from parties regarding Proposition 8.

"I've been told that they ask about what impact Prop. 8 could have and if it's retroactive," Hing said. "They asked if they need a reservation to get married, and some concern has been expressed about the possibility of its passing."

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