SAN FRANCISCO—On Friday October 8, well-known performance artist and porn star Annie Sprinkle received a call from LA County Parks & Recreation Deputy Director, Kathleen Ritner, informing her that her rental contract for her wedding at the Farnsworth Amphitheatre in Altadena had been canceled due to "unsafe conditions" created by the public announcement of the wedding inviting people to witness their "eco-sexual" wedding , in which Ms. Sprinkle would make vows with her long time romantic and performing partner Beth Stephens under the auspices of the full moon.
In 2004, Sprinkle and Stephens had an appointment at San Francisco City Hall to get legally married, but the day before they were to get married, the weddings were stopped by court order. It was then that Ms. Sprinkle and Ms. Stephens decided to have a series of art weddings in which they would commit themselves, including a legal wedding in Canada.
The Los Angeles marriage was to take place October 23 at the Farnsworth Amphitheatre, in Altadena, where weddings are often held throughout the year. While drafting their contract Sprinkle and Stephens told the rental office they were expecting around 400 people at the wedding, at least 100 of them performers and artists helping them create the wedding. They hired the recommended number of security guards and proceeded to mail 120 hand made invitations, and also posted the wedding announcement on various social sites and alerted interested media. After commentary about the wedding appeared on the popular local "Altadena Blog," Sprinkle received a call from Ritner, who cited security concerns by unnamed Los Angeles county law enforcement personnel.
"On the advice of the law enforcement agencies of the County of Los Angeles, we are canceling your Facility Reservation Contract, #18716, for the Farnsworth Park Amphitheatre on October 23, 2010," Ritner said. "It was discovered that your event is being advertised over the internet and is indicating that the public at large is invited to the free event. This has created an unsafe condition."
Since many free events are held at Farnsworth and advertised widely, both over the internet and through print publications, including teen music nights, concerts, and charity events, since the venue has a capacity well in excess of that expected by the wedding organizers, and since the cancellation occurred abruptly without an opportunity to hire additional security to deal with additional individuals that the LA police believed might attend, Sprinkle, Stephens and their wedding co-creators believe that the cancellation is in direct response to the gender of the brides, and the environmental activist themes of their vows. The wedding is to be officiated by Reverend Billy, a NYC based preacher-performer who 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."
Sprinkle and Stephens have no plans to cancel the wedding. They have requested that the County of Los Angeles rescind its cancellation, and allow Sprinkle and Stephens to use the Farnsworth venue for the commitment ceremony, and are hopeful that the County will see the error it has made. Anyone who is incensed by the discriminatory decision of the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department can call (213) 738-2961 or send a letter of protest to:
Russ Guiney, Director
Parks and Recreation Dept, LA County
433 S. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90020
In the event that Los Angeles County does not change its position, Sprinkle and Stephens are currently seeking an alternative venue. Dozens of performers and artists have created work specifically for the wedding, and many of them are coming from a great distance, along with family and guests. The self-identified eco-sexual couple say, "Nothing can stop us from celebrating our love for each other, and for our Earth."
Sprinkle and Stephens are considering filing suit against LA County and are represented by Terry Gross, a well known First Amendment lawyer with the San Francisco-based law firm Gross Belsky Alonso LLP. According to Gross, "A wedding is a time to announce the commitment of two people openly to the community. They shouldn't have to do it quietly without announcement just because they are two women. We are certain that the County would not cancel the same event were it between a man and a woman."