Wedding bells ring for gay nuptials in the county

For Redwood City residents Beverly Thames and Billie Norman, it almost seemed like fate.

The first day of same-sex marriages in San Mateo County just happened to fall on the couple’s 23rd anniversary. Thames, the public information officer for the county’s health department, and Norman, who works in hospital construction, had been married in 2004 in San Francisco, only to later have their marriage invalidated.

“Now our joke is that we’re marrying the ex,” Norman said moments after she and Thames tied the knot in thecounty clerk’s office chapel. The same-sex couple was one of nine married on county government property in Redwood City on Tuesday. Four chose the chapel, and another five walked outside the clerk’s office to be wed by gay-friendly clergy gathered in the courtyard.

Deputy county clerk Theresa Rabe said 35 gay and lesbian couples received marriage licenses. The first couples were lined up at 6:45 a.m — two hours before the county office opened its doors, she said.

Rabe said many couples were choosing to carefully plan their weddings instead of getting married on the spot.

“Some people said they were waiting until family was in town; other people wanted to get married on their anniversary,” she said. </p>

The Rev. Terri Echelbarger, who performed several weddings, said many of the couples were anxious that the right to marry would be overturned in November, but they didn’t let that stop them.

“Love is stronger than fear — that’s what you’re seeing,” Echelbarger said.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

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