The new rush is on for California gold, and just as they did a century and a half ago, men and women from all over America are traveling westward to stake their claims before the lode dries up.
This time they're coming in pairs to say ''I do,'' after a recent California Supreme Court ruling made it only the second state in the country to legalize gay marriage, and the first to allow same-sex partners from other states to wed within its borders.
But time, these couples know, may be of the essence, since a measure on the Nov. 4 ballot seeks to re-ban gay marriage in the state.
Same-sex couples across the U.S. are finding that their right to marry couldn't have happened in a lovelier nor more diverse state than California. From beaches to mountains to deserts, California really does offer something for everyone -- for both ceremony and honeymoon.
What follows are some of the best options available for matrimony-minded California-bound lovers.
With its dry desert heat, cool mid-century architecture, and easy proximity to Los Angeles, Palm Springs has long been a magnet for gays and lesbians, to the degree that it now boasts a year-round gay population that's higher per capita than even that of San Francisco.
The upscale and nearly all-suite Hacienda at Warm Sands, considered one of the top gay resorts in the country, is offering a three-night Honeymoon Package ($1,895 to $2,995) including rose petals, champagne, cake, tropical floral arrangement, and fresh fruit basket in the room, as well as two souvenir pillows each embroidered with the couple's names, two hour-long in-room massages, and dinner for two at a posh Palm Springs eatery.
The hotel can also offer assistance with such aspects of the ceremony as arranging for a limousine, officiator, photographer, and caterer, or even getting the license.
Nestled neatly between the glam of Hollywood and the glitz of Beverly Hills, L.A.'s main gay neighborhood, West Hollywood, attracts some folks seeking their own fame and many just stalking another's.
With its excellently central yet quiet side-street locale, Le Parc Suite Hotel offers a romantic getaway for the couple with stars in their eyes. The Romance Special ($399-$499) includes one night in a king or one-bedroom suite, champagne, breakfast in bed, parking, late checkout, and tax.
Perennial gay mecca San Francisco was the site of California's first gay marriage mini-rush in early 2004, when newly elected Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed city officials to wed same-sex couples -- until state courts put on the kibosh later that year.
Gay couples can now retrace the steps of those trailblazers by getting hitched at San Francisco City Hall.
Afterwards, they can kick off their honeymoons with the Pride & Personality Package at either the stylish Hotel Diva or the more classically appointed Kensington Park Hotel, both on Union Square and part of the city's Personality Hotels group of boutique properties. Packages start at $169 and include one night of deluxe accommodations, his/his or her/her pillowcases, fresh rose petals, champagne, and an 8x10 photo frame.
Part One | Part Two