“Ring them bells St. Catherine/ From the top of the room,

Ring them from the fortress/ For the lilies that bloom.

Oh the lines are long/ And the fighting is strong

And they're breaking down the distance/ Between right and wrong.”

Ring Them Bells,” Bob Dylan

Gay marriage is a reality in California this coming week, and it has apparently made a whole bunch of queer lawyers and activists nervous. Boutique hotel owners, tuxedo rental shop managers, and any other proud capitalist who cater to the wedding crowd are absolutely giddy, however. Another California Gold Rush of sorts is on.

And that’s what has such powerful organizations as Lambda Legal, Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and the National Center For Lesbian Rights, among others, seeing serious trouble in the next few months. According to a position paper these groups jointly released last week, out-of-state gays and lesbians should not marry in California and then fly back home and sue the federal government or their state governments. The time is not right, the lawyers and activists say, and losses at the state or federal level will only get “bad rulings” that will “make it much more difficult for us to win marriage, and will certainly make it take much longer.”

Which may or may not be true. Robin Tyler and the Reverend Troy Perry, two of the leading plaintiffs in the historic California Supreme Court case, were told by several so-called experts not to sue for the right to marry in 2004 and look what happened last month…they and the rest of the gay community came out winners. (See “Queer Enablers,” LA Weekly, May 22-28) It also took four years for their cases to work through the legal system. So even if people filed lawsuits this year, their lawyers probably won’t be standing in front of the highest court on the state or federal level for another three or four years. A lot can change in that time, especially with a gay-friendly president in the White House.

That leads to the other reason the power gays may have released their six-paged warning titled “Make Change, Not Lawsuits”—we’re smack in the middle of a presidential election, and they don’t want a possible gay backlash to hurt Senator Barack Obama. Politics is never mentioned in the position paper, but gay marriage lawsuits popping up all over the country, activists may fear, tend to make certain folks in this nation nervous. When they become nervous, they get scared, and when they get scared, they vote for someone familiar…like Senator John McCain.

Right now, though, politics and lawsuits are not on the minds of wedding industry people…and none of them are nervous or scared. They are quite the opposite, in fact. Hotel owners and the like are happy, optimistic, and possibly even a little relieved about all the gays expected to marry in California in the next few months, especially with an eye-popping report from UCLA’s Williams Institute making the news.

The researchers in Westwood found that gay and lesbian couples getting hitched will spend at least $683.6 million in the next three years, will flock to California in huge numbers, and will generate over 2,000 new jobs. The New York Times called this phenomenon the “New Summer of Love.” Any smart businessman calls it money in the bank. On Monday, June 16, at 5:01 p.m., the good times will start to roll.

Writer's Note: Robin Tyler and Diane Olsen will marry on the steps of the Beverly Hills Courthouse at 5:01 p.m. on June 16. In West Hollywood, on June 17, couples will start taking their vows at 9 a.m. at West Hollywood Park at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard. Large crowds of couples and gay marriage supporters are expected as the nation, even the world, watches these historic events.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

LA Weekly