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Paul and Kevin: reflections on five years of marriage in California

Kevin Voecks and Paul Waters: reflecting on five years of marriage in California

Paul Waters and Kevin Voecks were married June 17, 2008, among the first couples wed in California after the state Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

Their wedding, organized in just 12 days by Waters, was held on the lot of CBS Studio Center in Studio City and attended by 300 people. They were escorted down the aisle by Waters’ mother, Peggy.

Watch the audio slide show of their wedding day

Waters, 58, is a commercial insurance agent. Voecks, 56, develops audio products. They live in Valley Village, where Waters has developed domestic skills “out of necessity,” according to Voecks, who says he “has no such skills.”

They met in North Hollywood in July 1993 at a country-western bar. The day of their “electronic union,” Waters said, was when he moved into Voecks’ home with a computer and answering machine on Oct. 29, 1993. The dates October 29 and June 17 are inscribed on their wedding rings.

At first, Voecks resisted a serious relationship because it scared him. Waters presented an ultimatum to Voecks and Voecks decided he “couldn’t live without him.” According to Voecks, it was the “best forced decision I made in my entire life.” And he says, all kidding aside, it was “simply the best decision I ever made in my life.”

Their union is among 18,000 same-sex marriages performed in California. Such marriages were halted when voters approved Proposition 8 in November 2008. A court later ruled that the marriages performed before Proposition 8 remain valid.

Waters and Voecks were the subject of a Los Angeles Times photo essay when they married. In advance of the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, Waters and Voecks sat down with L.A. Times photographer Gary Friedman, who photographed their wedding, to reflect on their lives and marriage.

How are things going between the two of you five years later?

Voecks: I can honestly say, better than ever. No exaggeration. Every day is better, and we are really the envy of both gay and straight couples who say they have never seen such a happy relationship.

Waters: I’ll go along with that.

How has marriage changed you?

Waters: That very same question was asked by a Times reporter the day we got married, and at the time I was certain it would make a difference, but I couldn’t articulate then. I can today. Between us, there is a calmness and stability. For our gay friends, a stronger recognition of the relationship and a sense of belonging to society as a whole. To our straight friends, acquaintances, and others we encounter, the term husband is used without an asterisk or footnote. It means nothing more, nothing less and broad universal recognition to that.

Voecks: It’s impossible to say that with certainty because I don’t know what the intervening time would have been like alone. But, there’s no question that it seems more real and I would never use the term “married” or “husband” until it was legally true. I felt to use the terms before then would indicate our acceptance of second-rate status…. I feel a greater sense of our self-sufficiency as a unit. Not to minimize the importance of family and friends, but rather a greater feeling of security.

kiss

Kevin Voecks, left, and Paul Waters at home in Valley Village. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Waters: I am five years older and five years wiser.

How were your feelings on June 17, 2008?

Waters: I was so happy the day arrived that we were able to celebrate and be able to celebrate a special day for us and a very special and memorable day for the 300 guests that were part of that extraordinary day — a day that has remained a touchstone in world history. And we all got to be part of it in an extraordinary way.

Voecks: On June 17, 2008, I was thrilled and extremely happy and equally honored by the presence of the people who attended.

The lead headline in the June 10, 2013, edition of the L.A. Times says 58% in the state now support gay marriage. Three years ago, 52% favored gay marriage and 40% opposed it. What are your feelings about this and how has the state changed?

Voecks: I’m stunned at the rapidity of the change. Not just statewide, but nationally and internationally. After working for gay rights since the ’70s when decades would go by with little or no movement, we now see changes within months.

Waters: I’m delighted to see the change. I also know with absolute certainty that the current level of support is not the end point but merely a milestone along the path toward near universal support.

Did you get married thinking that gay marriage would be constitutionally banned in California 4 ½ months after you married?

Voecks: We were afraid it would be later that week.

Waters: A major reason we chose to get married on June 17, a Tuesday, was we were concerned that it might have been overturned [by a court] later that week.

How do you feel that, after being together so many years and married for five years, you do not receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual married couples?

Voecks: Furious. It’s completely wrong and unacceptable.

Waters: It hurts not just us and other gay couples, but it hurts our society by designating a portion of our fellow citizens to second-class status.

What do you think of huge anti-gay-marriage protests in France, a fairly liberal country?

Waters: Within any country, there is a disparity of opinion with part of that being homosexuality is wrong. That’s true in France, that’s true in the United States. France has a long-standing tradition of civil disobedience. The issue of same-sex marriage being legalized in France presented another opportunity to express that.

Voecks: It genuinely shocked me. I spent enough time in France to feel extremely accepted and to feel it was an unusually liberal and tolerant society.

What do you think of Robbie Rogers playing for the L.A. Galaxy and Jason Collins, the NBA player, coming out as gay?

Waters: A splendid development. Even more so because of the overwhelming support they’ve received from others in their sport. Now that the two of them are out, they’ll have an opportunity to find a man of their dreams, get married and be as happy as we are.

Voecks: I’m thrilled because they have so many fans who look up to them [and] whose opinions can be influenced by their brave actions.

Where do you see yourselves in your marriage five years from now? Ten years from now?

Voecks: Based on experience, I see it only getting deeper and better.

Waters: Kevin described the joy of having the opportunity to grow old together. He’s just not real thrilled about the part about getting old.

Wedding

Kevin Voecks, left, and Paul Waters celebrate their wedding in Studio City on June 17, 2008. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

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