Gay activists in California and across the nation are celebrating the one year anniversary of a major victory. One year ago, the United States Supreme Court struck down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and blocking Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on gay marriage in the state of California.
It opened the door for gay couples to get married, have it recognized by the federal government and brought new business into Palm Springs. "It gave us something to look forward to and celebrate it proudly I guess you would say," said Ray Keck, a Palm Springs resident who is celebrating his one year anniversary with his husband this summer.
Keck and his husband Jim Long were together for 25 years before they tied the knot officially. "We feel normal finally, like anybody else," said Long. "We feel like any other citizen that's been married all this time."
The pair's also celebrating the anniversary of the decision that made it legal for them to say "I do." Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Prop 8, and judges also ruled the portion of DOMA defining marriage as between a man and a women, unconstitutional. The decisions sent thousands of gay and lesbian couples to the alter, many of them choosing Palm Springs to say their vows.
"Now that we had inclusive weddings and inclusive marriages for everyone, we saw it as a great opportunity to really market ourselves," said James Canfield, the executive director of the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism.
The bureau launched its website, "visitpalmspringsweddings.com" shortly after the high court ruling. It helps couples, gay and straight, pick everything for their special day from the venue to the honeymoon. It's also creating more demand for people like Michael Scott Brooks, whose company specializes in planning gay weddings.
"It's turned into a very nice business too, on top of being able to do something really really nice for people," said Brooks. "I love that."
Brooks says Rainbow Weddings did more than 150 ceremonies in Palm Springs in the last year. Still, no matter how much of a same-sex wedding destination Palm Springs grows to be, gay activists say, there's a long way for the country to go.
"Keep fighting in those states, we'll join you," said Keck. "It's beautiful."