STEPHANIE & RONIE

PENINSULA — Standing in line for three hours was the pinnacle of anticipation for two Ocean Park women last week as they stood outside the local auditor’s office in Long Beach to officially mark the end of a 10-year wait to become a legally married couple.

A few hours after Referendum 74 went into effect at 12:01 a.m., on Dec. 6, Ronie Lindenberg and Stephanie Brieger arrived at the Pacific County Administration Building in the early morning to be the first same-sex couple to receive their marriage license on the Long Beach Peninsula. Much to their surprise, they were actually the first couple in the whole county.

Wanted to be first

“We were there at 6 a.m., but we knew they didn’t open “till 9,” said Stephanie, who passed the time by playing around on her iPad.

“We wanted to be the first on the Peninsula [to get a marriage license], but we were the first in Pacific County — and I was really taken aback by it,” said Ronie.

She continued, “It’s like we won a lottery without winning any money. It’s like walking into a Walmart and the lights and bells go off because you’re the millionth customer. It’s just going to be amazing.”

Their love story started 10 years ago when they were living in Arizona and met at a softball team brunch. Ronie, who was coping with the effects of her last relationship, challenged Stephanie, a single mom, to a game of darts that evening. Both of them had been married before, and both say that after they met each other, they knew early on that they wanted to be life partners.

Lots of mutual love

“She’s my best friend, I couldn’t imagine life without her,” said Ronie. “She’s 10 years younger than me, but she’s an old soul. I like that.

“I think my favorite thing about her is that we are so much alike. Maybe with food we disagree, but politically and how we treat people — we agree on that.”

Stephanie said her favorite thing about Ronie is her sense of humor. “She will make you cry from laughing. That’s what I’ve always looked for in a relationship — someone who isn’t so serious.”

“I’m the comedian, she’s the pretty one,” Ronie said with a smile.

Stephanie continued, “She’s my best friend, my love, my companion.”

“You have to find someone who you can roll out of bed and still look at,” Ronie quipped.

“And if a dress makes me look fat, she’ll tell me!” added Stephanie.

Like any other compatible couple, Ronie and Stephanie each have characteristics or habits that can drive the other crazy.

“I hate that right there,” Ronie said, pointing at her partner’s fidgeting hands. “You’re clicking your nails.”

“She can’t sit still, never,” Stephanie pointed out. “She’s always moving — and that’s a good thing. But she never takes time for herself.”

Ronie aired another grievance, “When you don’t have confidence in yourself or don’t believe in yourself. You’re very intelligent .... And her driving drives me crazy. She’s a very vocal driver!”

Embraced by community

In 2002, the pair moved from Arizona to the Peninsula and feel they were embraced by the community.

“We’re really happy here, we’ve been really accepted,” Ronie praised. “I forget we’re gay. It just so happens that I love a woman and she’s my best friend.”

Throughout their relationship, the couple never thought they’d ever see the day where they would have the opportunity to be legally wed.

“It wasn’t a reality — it wasn’t going to be real,” said Ronie. “Now, we have it pass by a public vote…”

“It’s amazing,” Stephanie explained.

“I cannot stand saying “my girlfriend’,” Ronie stressed. “It’s “my life partner.’ And to now be able to say “my wife’ — that’s pretty neat.

“I’m fortunate to have a real love, a real relationship and real commitment.”

“We’re just like every other couple out there,” Stephanie noted. “We’re just both female.”

Practical advantages

After overcoming a serious car accident a few years ago, the couple said being married is important for them because they will be able to have each other on their health insurance plans and be able to stay at each other’s bedside if either of them ever end up in the hospital again. Stephanie added that they will also be able to legally make decisions on one another’s behalf, such as in the event that one is on life support and the other will be allowed to carry out her wishes.

Stephanie explained, “For us as a couple, everything that’s mine is hers. If I were incapacitated, she could legally make those decisions for me. She knows what I would want.”

“For us, it’s a real privilege to do this,” added Ronie. “I don’t think some straight couples get it because they’ve always had it ... This is the person I want to live with all my life. Straight people don’t know how good they’ve had it, to be able to say, “Let’s go out and get married!’”

Stephanie agreed, “I think people tend to take it for granted.”

Now with the proper documentation in hand, the couple is planning a January wedding, though they have not decided whether it will be a simple courthouse affair or a more elaborate wedding ceremony.

“I kind of want the wedding,” Stephanie admitted.

Without missing a beat, Ronie announced, “Well, I’m not wearing a wedding dress.”

The time and place may not be decided, but Ronie said one detail is for sure.

“One time Stephanie said to me, “If we can get married, I want to take your last name.’ I think that is awesome.”

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