Performance artist and eroticism activist Annie Sprinkle wanted a simple old-fashioned wedding and set up a gay wedding performance art piece to celebrate her love and commitment to her partner Beth Stephens. However, Los Angeles County Parks & Recreation had a different idea about their celebration. Kathleen Ritner, the Deputy Director, rang them up to say that their event, scheduled to be held at the Farnsworth Amphitheatre, was canceled due to "unsafe conditions," on October 8, despite their having a duly executed rental contract.
Now we all know that most of California is on a crisscross of fault lines, but this publicly announced "eco-sexual" wedding, where Sprinkle and Stephens expected more than 400 people, was routed before it could begin. But what could possibly constitute unsafe conditions in an amphitheatre in a popular park?
A bit of history might help. More than six years ago, our intrepid couple was scheduled to get legally married during the tiny, tiny window, which ultimately closed before they could become an honest couple. Sprinkle and Stephens determined then that they would have a recurring series of performance art weddings every year where they would commit themselves. They did make the trip to Canada so they are legally married, but they still fight here in the United States for marriage equality for all.
October 23, 2010 was the date they had selected for their ceremony at the Farnsworth Amphitheatre, in Altadena, CA, where weddings and concerts are held throughout the year. So if weddings go on anyway, what makes this one unsafe? Sprinkle and Stephens made full disclosure that they were expecting about 400 people, 100 of whom would be artists. They hired the security guards recommended by the venue and hand-made and mailed 120 invitations. The event was posted on social media sites and press releases went out. Altadena Blog made a commentary on the event and, shortly thereafter, Ritner called to put the kibosh on a peaceful artistic event. Ritner had heard, she said, from Los Angeles County law enforcement, whom she refused to name, and who had security concerns.
The exact quote is as follows: "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. 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."
This is not the first free event held at Farnsworth to be advertised to the public. Teen evenings, concerts, and charity events of all descriptions happen there. What is so threatening about LGBT people, our friends or committing to a partner? If you go to Farnsworth's MySpace page, capacity is listed as 900, but some shows have swelled to 1300 with no issue. This leaves but one conclusion.
With the cancellation notice coming a mere two weeks before the event, the brides feel their gender and the environmental activist aspect of their ceremony must threaten someone. That said, there are no plans to cancel the ceremony. If you would like to call and show your support for this would-be happy couple, feel free to contact LA County Parks and recreation as follows: 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.
Always planning ahead, Sprinkle and Stephens are seeking an alternate venue. A lot of work has gone into the celebration of love and it will definitely go on. They identify as eco-sexual and say, "Nothing can stop us from celebrating our love for each other, and for our Earth."
Perhaps the first song at their wedding should be "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," because they have had not only to scale mountains, but also to move them for something that a straight couple meeting in Vegas can accomplish overnight.
There are legal issues involved as well, so 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."
Call or write LA County Parks and Recreation. Long distance is free on most cellphones and we need to let this country know we will NOT be treated as second class any longer! Support Sprinkle and Stephens. Do it for them and for all your committed friends who deserve Marriage Equality.