LOS ANGELES—According to a press release from former porn star and all-around sexual goddess Annie Sprinkle, she and her bride-to-be Beth Stephens were stunned when the deputy director of the L.A. County Parks and Rec Department called them on a Friday afternoon to inform them that their Farnsworth Amphitheater rental contract (in Atladena, Calif.) had been canceled. This call came just two weeks before their big full-moon wedding was to take place there. The brides flashed back to a rainy day at the San Francisco City Hall in 2004 when their original legal wedding was canceled by a court order banning gay marriage. They were distraught.
The Altadena Blog had posted an announcement about the bride’s "ecosexual" themed wedding. Someone read about it and tried to stop it from happening. They complained to the Parks Department. For some reason, the Parks Department and the sheriff decided that they didn’t want this ecosexual wedding in Altadena. The Parks Department contacted Sprinkle and told her the wedding was canceled due to “public safety” concerns. The alleged reason was that since there had been a few postings on a few websites about the wedding, it was likely that thousands of people would attend, and that there was simply insufficient parking. The Parks Department and the sheriff claimed there were only 65 parking spaces available, and thus the wedding couldn’t take place in Altadena.
This reason was clearly a pretext, since the contract the Parks Department had already signed with Sprinkle authorized 500 participants, so obviously there were enough parking spaces for 500 (and not just 65 spaces). Quick Internet research showed many other events and concerts at the Park involving hundreds of attendees that were advertised widely, both over the Internet and in print publications, and that the Park’s MySpace page says it has a capacity of 1,300. The brides were troubled because they sensed that something else was going on. They felt that they were being discriminated against because this was a wedding of two women, and also because of discrimination against the environmental themes of the wedding.
Their wedding officiant, the New York based preacher-performer Reverend Billy, and his director and wife, Savitri D., were outraged at this sudden venue cancellation. Reverend Billy said, “It is bad enough that same-sex marriage is illegal in California but now even the performance of a same-sex marriage is called unsafe. Reverend Billy and Savitri presented this case to a well-known constitutional lawer, Terry Gross of San Francisco-based Gross Belsky Alonso LLP, who is a fierce advocate for First Amendment rights and also Burning Man’s general counsel. Gross then forced the L.A. Parks and Rec Department to withdraw its cancellation, by demonstrating to the Parks and Recreation Department that the cancellation violated state and federal constitutions and laws—just in time for the upcoming nuptials to proceed as planned.
Sprinkle and Stephens explain, “We are lovers, not fighters, but we had no choice except to fight this. We tried to find other venues but nothing appropriate was available on such short notice. Family and friends are flying in from all over the U.S., and overseas, there was no way we could change the date. We’re very happy to have Farnsworth Park Amphitheater back. It’s beautiful and we love the mountain setting. Now that there is peace in the land, we can finally start to write our vows and spread the love. And if you are coming to the wedding, please carpool. It’s better for the environment.”