My partner (now husband) Seth and I got married last Friday. It was an amazing experience that took us by surprise and brought us great joy and an unexpected feeling of peace.
On Wednesday, word came that Mayor Newsom had asked the City Clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to lesbian and gay couples. Thursday afternoon, the first marriages began as the Clerk agreed to the request. The Recorder quickly set up administrative offices to immediately issued marriage certificates after ceremonies were performed. Word spread like wild fire and couples began to trek to City Hall to gain that which had long been denied them. I called Seth that afternoon and we agreed to go down Friday morning and hope that we were married before a possible injunction from the radical right organizations that had threatened a lawsuit to halt the marriages.
Friday morning, we got dressed up in appropriately Queer colors, me in a tan suit with lilac dress shirt, Seth in tan pants and mauve shirt. As we were getting dressed, our friend Nancy called and said, "You guys are getting married today, aren't you?" She then insisted on being there, having missed our earlier commitment ceremony 1.5 years earlier because she was catering our reception. We made a plan to meet her. We hopped on the subway and rode to City hall, where we found a line stretching around the rotunda. The mood was happy but anxious as we joined the line, as none of us knew if or when an injunction might be served to stop the process. We waited with hundreds of others as the line grew longer and longer as the day progressed, soon stretching out onto the sidewalk.
I left Seth in line to ask Supervisor Tom Ammiano if he could marry us, as he had done our commitment ceremony 1.5 years earlier, because he has done so much for our community, and because I love him tremendously.. Unfortunately, he had another commitment, but that allowed me to ask my boss, Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, to officiate and I was happy to include Jake, who I also love. After two hours in line, we got our license. The time went by easy, as we were talking to the other couples and visiting with many acquaintances. It was great to have this new wonderful thing in common with so many. In the meantime, we ran into our friend Robert Haaland who gave us grief, appropriately, about deciding to get married and not telling any of our friends about it so they could be there. Robert then called our good friend Hassan, who happened to be in town from NYC, and Hassan took a cab down to City Hall.
We gathered Jake from his office and made our way to the rotunda for the ceremony. Weddings were going on all over the rotunda, on the floor, on the grand staircase, around the balconies. Pizzas were being delivered to those waiting in line. People were laughing and smiling and crying and clapping all around us. We realized once we got there that none of us had thought about what we were going to say. We decided to forgo getting a copy of the standard vows and to speak from the heart. It was a good choice. Jake said something about how, although he would officiate, his role was that of the other witnesses, all of whom were there to witness the beauty of the love between Seth and I and that the ceremony would occur between the two of us.
Seth and I then turned and looked at each other for a long while. We burst into huge smiles and laughed. I said, "I recommit myself to you for a lifetime of love in marriage." Seth said the same. We kissed each other. Our friends were all clapping and laughing. Jake said, "What San Francisco has joined together, let no court tear asunder."
Then, I saw my friend Crissy standing over to the side and realized I had completely forgotten about our scheduled lunch date. I apologized and she said, "Don't be silly, this was perfect, I got to see you get married instead." She also had called my good friend Debra on her cell phone on and let her listen in during the ceremony. I was very glad. Then Jake signed all of the papers and we went to stand in another line at the Assessor/Recorder to get our marriage license. It took a little while, but again, time went fast as we all felt like we were almost there. When they put that certificate of marriage in my hand on that fancy certificate paper, I was really shocked at how much it meant to me. It really moved me deeply. So many people, from church people when Igrew up, to football coaches in school, to best friends who turned away, to my parents when I wanted to bring home my partner, even to some Queer friends when I announced I was having a commitment ceremony - so many people had done so much to undermine the legitimacy of my relationships and the value of my commitments to the man I love. Underpinning all these undermining acts had been our exclusion from equal recognition by society of our relationship. That marriage certificate represented a repudiation of past state discrimination by an agency of the state. It was an admission of a wrong and an attempt to make it right. It is a very moving thing.
Now, I am not one of those who thinks that only committed relationships between two people are legitimate. Nor do I believe that access to health insurance and other benefits should depend on relationship status. I celebrate polyamorous perversity and have taken part in it many times in my life. But I am now with a person I love very much and fully intend to stay with until we grow old and wrinkled and saggy together. We have repeatedly committed to one another and do so in hundreds of ways daily. We have declared our commitment publicly on many occasions. Given this, isn't it time?
Isn't it time we all be allowed to have a romantic Valentines' dinner together without stares? That we all be allowed to hold hands as we walk together without hoots and hollers from passing cars? That we all be encouraged to adopt and give a wonderful loving home to a child without lingering suspicion that somehow we will harm the child? That we all be celebrated by our own families for our commitment to creating a loving family together, just like our straight siblings? That the law recognize our commitments in exactly the same way it recognizes those of straight people? That our commitment to one another NOT be seen as threatening family values at a time when straight American popular culture continually undermines the values that make marriage possible? That our commitments be welcomed and celebrated as reinvigorating the "institution of marriage"? That the many, many thousands of lesbian and gay committed couples across the country be given the gift of marriage they so richly desire and deserve?
This is the time we are living in. The genie is out of the bottle. The media stories about this great event have generally told our stories truthfully. That is an incredibly powerful thing to happen. The radical right is having a very difficult time explaining why equal recognition of the love between any two people could possibly undermine the "institution of marriage." Although few of us might have predicted it, this single act by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has radically altered the landscape on LGBT issues. Did you notice how, following these events, Democrat John Kerry's support of Civil Unions but opposition to "Gay marriage" seemed much less acceptable than it had a few weeks before? Things have shifted. It is up to us to make sure they don't slip back. It won't be easy but it is our task.
I am married to Seth through a process sanctioned by an agency of the state of California. Now, just let any person try to tell me I am not. As our President is so fond of saying, "Bring it on." When you come after my family, you should expect some resistance.