Few will be blushing brides or fidgety young grooms.
They will be older, a group of well educated people whose ages average in their mid-40s. A majority will be women, many with children in tow. But the men taking their vows will typically have been together even longer than the women.
Demographers and researchers who study gay and lesbian families and relationships predict that the first wave of couples who marry in the wake of the California Supreme Court decision will be drawn from the state's pool of registered domestic partners. And they will look a lot like the first couples who married in Massachusetts or entered civil unions in Vermont.
Yet, a unique state study and other data that provide an unprecedented portrait of a state's lesbian and gay population also suggest that in California, marrying couples could quickly shatter stereotypes about gays as being wealthy, urban and white, and about gay men as being unwilling to commit to a permanent life partner.
In rural California, "the population is definitely more Latino than the gay population statewide. There are significant numbers of people raising children — there are 8,300 same-sex couples in these rural counties that are raising children,'' said Lisa Cisneros, an attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance, quoting statistics for the 21 counties her organization serves.
"Over time, that's what we'll see in the couples that get married in California.''
"I would not be surprised if in a fairly short time you see there are a lot more couples marrying that break the stereotypes,'' said Gates. "They are potentially people of color. The question is, will it happen before November?''
November is when California voters are likely to vote on a prohibition of same-sex marriage in the state constitution. California voters would be making a decision no American voter has yet faced, potentially voting to annul the marriages of actual couples, not just deciding the concept of same-sex marriage.
So many voters "will know a couple that actually got married — you might have gotten invited to their wedding — that I think it will really personalize it for people,'' said Esther Rothblum, a professor of women's studies at San Diego State University.
Much of the data on gay and lesbian couples in California comes from a survey done for the state as part of an investigation of tobacco use among various ethnic and demographic groups.
One conclusion of that survey is that while lesbians are more likely to be in relationships than gay men, gay men who are in relationships — on average — have been in them longer than women.
Registered domestic partners in California have been together an average of 12.25 years, compared to 8.91 years for women, Gates found in his analysis of the survey of the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population in 2004.
Gates said those findings, to be published in the journal Demography, surprise many people who assume gay men rarely form durable relationships.
But they also ring true to many gay men.
"I've observed that myself,'' said Gary Lawson, a psychologist who lives in Mountain View and who has been with his partner Tom Ammon since 1980. "Certainly among my friends and colleagues, that seems to be true.''
Lawson said he has no clear sense as to why. Social research suggests women more frequently initiate the break-up of a couple, which could be one explanation, Gates said.
Lesbians are also nearly three times more likely to have been in a previous heterosexual marriage than gay men, according to the California survey.
Still, based on the experience of same-sex couples who have married in Massachusetts or entered a civil union in Vermont, a majority of the couples who get married in the wake of last week's California Supreme Court ruling likely will be female.
The Census Bureau estimates that California had about 109,000 same-sex couples living together in 2006. Those numbers have grown significantly since the 2000 Census, particularly in rural parts of the state, probably because same-sex couples are more willing to acknowledge their status.
"More people are coming out and at the same time, the homophobia is still very entrenched,'' Cisneros said. "People want to be themselves, whether they are at work or at school, and sometimes the culture in a community hasn't really caught up with that.''
Contact Mike Swift at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-271-3648.