By Edward Paik
After reading last Wednesday's front page Chronicle article on Kern and Butte counties' refusal to officiate gay weddings, 62-year-old restaurant owner Russell Bass felt his blood boil.
“It was ridiculous,” he said over the phone from said restaurant, Cafe de la Paz. “It appears to me as kind of a de facto civil rights violation.”
Last Wednesday, the Chronicle reported that both Kern and Butte stopped performing wedding ceremonies in general due to a supposed lack of resources to accommodate both gay and straight couples. Mayor Newsom cried bullshit, and so did Bass.
“They basically terminated a service that they’ve probably been offering for 50 or a 100 years just in time to avoid having to provide that service to gay and lesbian couples,” Bass said.
So he put an ad up in the Bakersfield Californian this week -- offering a same-sex couple from Kern county a “gratis” marriage ceremony for 10 at Cafe de la Paz. (The top half of the ad is pictured above, the rest is below the fold.)
All you potential newly-weds stuck in bigotland have to do is write Bass
a letter telling him why you'd rather get married in Berkeley rather than Kern, in less than 200 words.
Cafe de la Paz, which opened at the La Pena Cultural Center in 1991 till moving to its current location in Berkeley, California’s “Gourmet Ghetto,” has always been a center for liberation and solidarity, according to Bass.
“We’re very active. We support a lot of different communities, it’s part of our profile.”
Yet, the marriage proposal wasn’t about politics or community. “It’s just a human rights issue for me,” Bass said. “Making a statement.”
Bass remembers the bliss on his longtime customer’s faces when they told him they’d want Cafe de la Paz to cater their same-sex wedding -- only a few days before he read the article.
“It’s an act of liberation for people who’ve chosen this lifestyle,” he says. “Then to have [Kern] county basically flaunt this law by terminating this service - I just found it kind of offensive.”
Yes, the free ceremony and dinner reception will take Bass back around 200 dollars. And the ad that ran in the Bakersfield Californian: another couple hundred.
But it makes sense to Bass. “I’m just taking a stand.”
Random Detail: The ad offering a “gratis” same-sex marriage ceremony asks in specific: whether the couple would rather marry in Berkeley, how long the couple has been together, what they’d wear and how soon they could come.
By the Way: The winner has yet to be chosen. If you are interested and qualify, act fast.