When West Hollywood residents Cody Alexander and Woody Henkel woke up Wednesday morning, they had the same plan for the day: propose to the other one.
Turns out, Henkel was just a little quicker.
“I woke up. I had the ring in the draw. I had champagne under the bed with an ice pack on it. And roses in the closet,” said Henkel, who met his partner online two years ago. “I woke up and was incredibly elated.”
“I was going to ask him tonight,” said Alexander. “I had it all figured out — and then he jumped the gun.”
But really, who could blame Henkel.
Same-sex marriage is once again legal in California.
“We’ve won!” exclaimed Councilmember John Duran on Wednesday morning to roars among city staff members, as a score of TV cameras clamored for footage.
With two landmark rulings — one striking down DOMA (the 1996 federal law banning gay marriage) and the other Prop 8 (California’s anti-gay marriage law) — the Supreme Court sent euphoria spreading throughout West Hollywood.
On Wednesday night, hundreds packed the historic corner of San Vicente and Santa Monica boulevards to celebrate, joined by the plaintiffs who took on Prop 8 and the dream-team attorney duo that represented them.
“I remember the anger,” said Henkel. “I was here the night that Prop 8 passed. I came here for the rally and then a march down to CNN on Sunset. This is very cathartic.”
Without knowing the outcome of the Supreme Court cases, Henkel and Alexander, who live just three blocks from San Vicente and Santa Monica, had planned to throw a domestic partnership party next week.
“We turned it into an engagement party,” said Alexander.
The party Wednesday night spread far down San Vicente, with rainbow and American flags waving at every turn. The stage sat like a small island swallowed up by the crowd.
Master of ceremonies was Dustin Lance Black, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Milk.” First introduced to the crowd was West Hollywood Mayor Abbe Land.
During 2008’s “Summer of Love” in West Hollywood — the short window between anti-gay marriage Proposition 22 being struck down by the state Supreme Court and voters passing Proposition 8, which once again outlawed gay marriages in California — Land became “deputized” to perform marriage ceremonies. She married 40 couples.
“I cried at each one,” she said. “Anyone who was a part of that, your own marriage got stronger.”
She added, “I’ve kept my robe on the back of my door all this time so I’m ready to go the minute they say we can do it.”
In 2008, West Hollywood worked with Los Angeles County to issue marriage licenses and hold ceremonies, something Land hopes the city can soon do again.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on Prop 8 will go into effect in 25 days. At that time the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco will be able to lift its “stay” on the original 2010 decision by U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker declaring Prop 8 to be unconstitutional.
At that point, LA County, possibly with WeHo’s help, can begin issuing marriage licenses.
Joining Land at the podium was Councilmember John D’Amico, who married his husband, Keith Rand, in August of 2008 during the “Summer of Love.”
“We believed in America and the idea that marriage is a protected part of living here in California and being American,” said D’Amico, who met his husband in WeHo in 1992 and was elected to the City Council in 2011. “And then we found out it wasn’t. Luckily, it wasn’t for only awhile.”
D’Amico took to the podium at the AFER rally and exclaimed “”Look what we’ve done!”
“Twenty-one years ago, I met the love of my life … 5 years ago we got married, but it was 9 hours ago that the government said ‘You belong!'” he said to cheers. “We are no longer ‘the other.’ We are Americans.”
David Boies and Ted Olson, the unlikely legal duo that spearheaded the case for Prop 8, flew from Washington D.C. to West Hollywood to speak. Upon introduction on stage, they clasped each others hands and held them up in unison. Cheers roared from the crowd as “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” played over the speakers.
Joining them were Prop 8 plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo.
Receiving one of the loudest ovations of the night was Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has earned a reputation as being a fierce advocate for gay equality. Villaraigosa played a big part in legislation that banned discrimination in housing and the workplace, and helped win protections for transgender inmates in city jails. His cousin, John Perez, is the first openly gay speaker of the California State Assembly.
“Bigotry and bias has no place in law,” said Villaraigosa.
“Thirty-seven hateful marriage bans are still on the books,” exclaimed Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin, who founded the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which was the sole sponsor of Hollingsworth v. Perry, the federal constitutional challenge to California’s Prop 8.
“Tonight, we set a new goal for our brothers and sisters,” he said. “We will bring marriage equality to all 50 states within five years. Justice can’t wait.”