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Life goes on for Burbank couple after U.S. Supreme Court decision

Following a very public wedding, Burbank couple vow to help others in the struggle for equality.

July 12, 2013|By Alene Tchekmedyian, alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com
  • Jeff Zarillo, left, and his partner Paul Katami, right, speak to the media after wedding ceremony officiated by L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at City Hall in Los Angeles on Friday, June 28, 2013.
Jeff Zarillo, left, and his partner Paul Katami, right,… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

When Burbank newlyweds Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo stumbled into San Francisco City Hall on June 30 just moments after marching in the city's gay pride parade they were overwhelmed by what they saw.

Dozens of same-sex couples — some in their 70s, others joined by their parents, many with flower girls and boys in bowties by their sides — were lined up, waiting to get married.

"I said, 'Jeff, stop, take a look around, everybody's getting married in this room right now,'" Katami recalled this week. "You think to yourself, 'How could anyone stand against this?'"

Just two days earlier, Katami and Zarrillo had themselves gotten married.

The moment marked the culmination of a more than four-year legal battle — full of emotional testimonies, near-endless court hearings and trips to Washington D.C. — in which Katami, 40, and Zarrillo, 39, along with a lesbian couple from Berkeley, challenged Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage.

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Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively nullified Proposition 8 by sending the case back to California, where a judge in 2010 had overturned the ban.

The Supreme Court decision set into motion a series of cross-country events, a phone call from President Obama, celebratory rallies and a rushed drive through L.A.'s notoriously clogged streets to City Hall.

Ironically, after a six-year engagement, Katami and Zarrillo had a "shotgun wedding" that happened in front of a throng of news cameras, just as much of their legal battle did.

There was hardly enough time to get to L.A. City Hall, let alone assemble a traditional wedding party. But millions were on the guest list as the ceremony was broadcast live on "The Rachel Maddow Show."

"Four-and-a-half years and we got married in less than five minutes," Zarrillo said. "We wanted to be first couple in L.A. to get married — that was important to us."

Zarrillo's parents tuned in with a bottle of champagne from their New Jersey home, Katami's sister from a San Francisco restaurant, and strangers watched in Amsterdam, Greece and Spain.

"In the moment, it was so surreal," Katami said. "We got home to finally sit down and watch it and say, 'Wow, we got married. That actually happened.'"

Another, more intimate wedding celebration is in the works. For that, Zarrillo's mother said she'll need a beach towel.

"I'm known as the crier in the family," Linda Zarrillo said with a laugh.

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