Queers and their allies displayed love for their significant others at the 16th annual queer wedding ceremony on Friday at noon in Storke Plaza.

The Queer Student Union (QSU) hosted the event to cap its week of pride celebrations, which started April 22. Queer and straight students tied the knot in a mass symbolic marriage officiated by Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Young. He officiated the ceremony for 28 couples, seven triples and one group of four people. QSU co-chair Tanya Paperny said a crowd of about 200 people turned out to watch the event, in which marriage participants walked down Storke Plaza’s steps on a purple carpet, under a balloon rainbow and through an altar. She said this year’s crowd turnout for the event was the biggest ever.

“We didn’t anticipate this many people,” Paperny said. “I could have never imagined this.”

Approximately 30 couples originally registered for the wedding, but same-day registration allowed for more people to participate, Paperny said.

QSU co-chair Raymond Meza, a second-year political science major, also said he was surprised the number of spectators at the wedding.

“I think more people came than voted in the [Associated Students] election,” Meza said. “This has surpassed most of the events we’ve had. The number of people that came out shows the support the queer community has at UCSB.” Before the wedding ceremony, Paperny spoke to the crowd that gathered along the steps of Storke Plaza in front of the UCen.

“We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re allied and we’re loud,” she said. “We can’t go unnoticed anymore.” Paperny also said students who would like to see gay marriage legalized need to be patient.

“Stay in it for the long haul,” she said. “It’s going to be a long fight.”

During the weddings, Young read wedding vows aloud and the couples, triples and the quadruple repeated the words while facing each other.

“By the power invested in me as the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, I now pronounce you proud partners in the eyes of the community,” Young said at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Fourth-year political science major John Andeck, who was a spectator at the event, said gays and lesbians at UCSB today can be more open about their sexuality.

“The gay community has waited a long time to be recognized and today we can wear our hearts on our sleeves,” Andeck said.

Adrienne Mac Iain, a dramatic arts graduate student, wore a white wedding gown at the ceremony. Her spouse, third-year computer science student Connie Berardi, sported a suit and played the groom. The pair said they had been together for more than a month, and Friday’s wedding was their first time in public as a female couple.

“This is a great excuse to sort of come out as a couple,” said Mac Iain, who openly identifies as bisexual. “It’s sort of hard to take this entirely seriously when you have a plastic ring on your finger, but at the same time we felt it was a really important statement to make.”

The mock wedding was a call for equal marriage rights, Berardi said.

“When it comes to the point that you’re fighting for civil rights, that’s where I put my foot down and that’s why I wanted to be out here today – to say that people should have equal rights whether they’re queer or straight,” Berardi said. “It doesn’t matter what they are. They should have the same rights as everybody else.”

Young said he has officiated about nine or 10 queer weddings at UCSB, and he said the campus has long-standing support, acceptance and tolerance for the gay and lesbian community. He also said the leadership of the campus should take up the cause of equal marriage rights.

“Institutionally, it is critically important that those of us in the leadership of the university stand up for the basic and fundamental right of all people – to stand up regardless of their sexuality,” Young said. “Human rights are human rights. You either believe in human rights and stand up for them, or you do not.”

Second-year psychology major Angela Rich, who transferred to UCSB from Fullerton College, participated in the wedding with her girlfriend. She said her former junior college was a lot more conservative compared to UCSB, and opportunities for queer students to express themselves were more limited.

“We couldn’t really do anything in your face like this,” Rich said.