the Front Lines of LGBT Marriage: California
Ann Brown & Christine Rose Allen
Legally Married February 16, 2004
City Hall Rotunda, San Francisco, California
Marriage Nullified August 2004
Chinese say it is a curse to live in interesting times, and two
and a half years ago I may have agreed. However, suddenly in February
of 2004, our interesting times became absolutely fascinating...
and I have been lovers, life partners and co-parents for over
twenty years. Our five children are now grown, though our youngest
daughter and her best friend still live at home with us. We
have four grandchildren. We have witnessed our two sons
weddings, and will be participating in our oldest daughter's
wedding this-coming October. However, we, ourselves, are not
able to legally marry.
It was difficult, to watch our children marry and know that
we could not. In fact, at every wedding we've attended over
these many years there has invariably been a moment where we
would look at each other and silently share that unhappy realization:
that others could share so joyfully in something that was denied
to us. That we were always "the audience," the folks
whose role it was to share in other people's happiness. We've
even attended weddings where the bride and groom wanted us to
be present, but were uncomfortable with us dancing together
at their reception--perhaps because that could be viewed as
too much of a "statement."
We've watched many people younger than ourselves marry. We've
watched folks marry who'd been together but a short time compared
to our years as a couple. We've watched couples whose weddings
we'd attended get divorced; though our own "unmarried"
Ann wanted to get married, to have a ceremony recognizing our
relationship, since the first year we lived together. The ritual
of us committing ourselves to each other publicly meant a great
deal to her. She also wanted the acceptance and social recognition
that marriage brings.
Unlike Ann, I wanted little to do with marriage. I had very
mixed feelings about the institution as a whole. Many of my
feelings stemmed from a feminist perspective; the historical
connotations of marriage as a patriarchal institution involving
women as male property; the wife forfeiting her property, money
and rights to her husband; the woman losing custody and "ownership"
of her children; the man as "head of household."
Secondly, there is my own personal history with marriage, many
years previous to my relationship with Ann. I am a lesbian woman
who married a man at the age of seventeen. The primary driving
force behind that marriage was my fear of discovery, my desire
to pass and to try to ensure that nobody EVER found out the
truth of my lesbianism. I tried to do what my culture was telling
me was right, back in 1966. Suffice it to say that my experience
with marriage was not a workable or pleasant one for anyone
My third objection to having a ceremony in the previous years
was my absolute outrage that, as a couple, we were denied the
right to marry legally. In many ways I felt that having a commitment
ceremony, for me, would be a sign that I accepted my second-class
status; a sign that I accepted being legally denied the option
of a true legal marriage. I was very disturbed by the civil
rights issue involved: which is that gay men and lesbians should
have the same rights under the Constitution as everyone else.
They should not have to constantly come up with workarounds
that simulate the rights of heterosexual couples under the law,
but that in reality are not even close to providing the social
support and legal protections that heterosexual couples and
their families enjoy. The fact was, I wanted the real deal with
all of its legal ramifications. I wanted the whole enchilada,
According to the Federal Government Accounting Office, there
are 1,138 federal rights and responsibilities of civil marriage
granted in this country to legally married couples that gay
and lesbian couples have not been granted under any domestic
partnership scenario to date. See
this page for a compilation of the rights, or a report
from the federal government Accounting Office identifying those
sections of law is available online at http://www.gao.gov./archive/1197/og97016.pdf.)
These rights cover everything from filing taxes jointly, to
exemption from the inheritance tax when one's legal spouse dies,
to making decisions for an incapacitated partner, to custody
issues, to receiving a spouse's retirement benefits, to health
care decisions. That doesn't even take into consideration the
rights provided by individual states or the benefits like joint
gym memberships, family discounts at amusement parks and numerous
other goodies not regulated by the government.
Gay and lesbian couples have to pay more money and fill out
more paperwork to avail themselves of benefits provided under
domestic partner and civil union laws, where those exist. Most
states don't have provisions for either domestic partnerships
or civil unions. The benefits offered to domestic partners do
not even remotely resemble the benefits offered to married couples.
Many folks labor under the illusion that domestic partner benefits
are similar to the health care benefits that married folks have.
They are not. For example, when a gay or lesbian person utilizes
domestic partner health care benefits, those benefits are considered
"earned income" at the end of the year and they must
pay income tax on them.
Nevertheless, ten years ago Ann and I did register with the
State of California as Domestic Partners. We did this in order
to qualify for domestic partner benefits through our respective
places of employment. We actually got excited the day we drove
to the state capitol. After all, this was as close to a legal
recognition of our union as we believed we would ever get.
Unfortunately, the experience was similar to getting a dog license
at a grim and unfriendly animal shelter. No one said congratulations,
or wished us well, or even smiled at us. We filled out the appropriate
papers, the state took our money and that was that. Ann ended
up in tears. We took ourselves out to lunch for Mexican food
and then went home and called and Emailed our friends and family.
It was a paltry substitute for a wedding.
It was then that I began to really feel the full force of how
unacceptable this state of affairs was. I love this woman, Ann
Brown, with my entire being. I have chosen her to be the most
important person in my life. And, yet, not only had her state
and country failed her, I'd failed her too, by refusing to do
something that she had clearly voiced would mean a great deal
to her. That was just plain selfish, regardless of my ideology
and political stance.
In September of 1996 the "Trial of the Century"
the same-sex marriage trial began in Hawaii. On December 3,
1996 a ruling was handed down in favor of the plaintiffs and
the state was ordered to begin issuing marriage licenses to
same-sex couples. The next day, December 4, 1996, that injunction
was stayed awaiting the expected appeal. In the meantime, the
Roman Catholic and Mormon churches joined forces to oppose same-sex
marriage in Hawaii - hundreds of volunteers and millions of
dollars poured into the state to be used to prevent same-sex
marriage. In November of 1999 a constitutional amendment was
passed by Hawaiian voters against same-sex marriage. A ruling
on that vote was handed down in December of 1999 --also against
Ann and I watched all of this in awe that it was even occurring.
We LGBT people of our generation had never let ourselves truly
believe that we would someday be able to marry legally. Those
years were a roller coaster of emotions. After the 1999 ruling
we sighed in disappointment, refocused on our own community
activism, and let the marriage issue slide back into the recesses
of our minds.
This is where the marriage situation stood for us on Valentine's
Day weekend 2004. I had a short trip planned for myself over
the long holiday weekend, during which I would visit family
and friends in the Bay Area, San Jose, Aptos and La Selva Beach.
I left home on Thursday morning and planned to return Monday
evening. Ann was staying home with the kitties, dogs and teenagers,
at our little house in Grass Valley, California --in the Sierra
Foothills northeast of Sacramento.
I'd seen the news that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was
issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, and the
photograph of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, women who are the
pioneers for my generation, brought tears to my eyes. It is
interesting how our minds work, or don't work, as the case may
be. I was thrilled at the historic events that were unfolding
in San Francisco, and I was following the story of the same-sex
marriages in the newspapers enthusiastically, but never once
did it cross my mind that Ann and I could ourselves go and get
Ann, on the other hand, was totally unaware of what was happening
for the first couple of days. On Saturday, Valentine's Day,
she was home and received a call from a friend in the Bay Area
telling her about the marriages taking place in San Francisco.
Ann got very excited and immediately called me long-distance,
leaving a message on my cell phone saying, Lets
meet in Alameda and go to San Francisco and get married!
I called back, and when Ann picked up the phone, the first words
out of my mouth were, "Are you serious?" She was.
So, I agreed, "Okay, let's do this."
It may sound simple, but the issues involved here were NOT simple
to me. First of all, what would being legally married do to
our Domestic Partner status? If we married and then the marriages
were to be declared illegal, would we be in the position of
having our Domestic Partner status revoked? Would our DP status
be renewed if the marriages were legally nullified? Does anybody
know? Can one, in the eyes of the law be both married and a
Domestic Partner? I have no health insurance other than Ann's
benefits through her job. Would I be risking losing the only
medical insurance I have?
If we got married we would be signing on for what would probably
be a prolonged and intense legal battle. At the ages of 54 and
59 Ann and I had weathered many civil rights struggles, but
we were older now. I had to really think about whether or not
I wanted to take this on. By going through with this I would
be fully committed to the outcome of this endeavor. I am not
the kind of person who could go get married in San Francisco
and then just sit back idly and wait for the results while others
do all the work.
And then, there is the reality of legal marriage. We would be
signing a legal contract. A legal contract that, once witnessed
and signed, then becomes a matter of public record. Our finances,
property, insurance, retirement would all now be legally intertwined.
These issues warranted taking time to think about, even for
a couple who had been together almost nineteen years and who
intend to stay together for the rest of their lives. Perhaps
especially for a couple whom have had to bind themselves in
creative contractual ways, not having had the benefit of legal
We would be waltzing onto uncharted legal ground. The marriages
being licensed and performed in San Francisco were legal in
the City and County of San Francisco. They would be legally
challenged at the state level in California. They were not federally
recognized. And, they weren't recognized by state-to-state reciprocity.
In fact, what if they would be challenged between counties within
California? What if insurance companies refused to insure spouses
because the marriages were not legal according to federal law?
My head was spinning all night long contemplating all those
questions and uncertainties.
The bottom line for me, though, once I had thought it all through,
was that I couldn't NOT do it. It was too historic a moment,
it was too important a step for civil rights, and it was the
opportunity that we had believed would never happen in our lifetimes.
While I wallowed in legal what ifs and general marriage angst
down in La Selva Beach, up in Grass Valley Ann was trying to
determine whether the marriages were in fact still happening
through Sunday. After several phone calls and some hasty planning,
including figuring out whom would take care of our five dogs
and two kitties; we managed to meet in the Bay Area on Sunday
morning. Ann skipped in glowing, trailed by the two teenagers.
Our eldest, daughter Shoshanna, our second daughter, Asia, our
daughters-in-law Steph and Maha and our 7 year old granddaughter,
Reema, were all there, dressed up, cameras at the ready.
Even though everyone else was dressed up for our marriage,
Ann had forgotten to bring my good clothes and shoes from Grass
Valley, so she dressed down so I wouldnt feel badly. Teenagers
Kalie and Christina were... well, typical teenagers.
Steph and Asia were hopping up and down; mildly frantic that
it was taking us so long to get our act together. They'd been
watching the news and were aware of the larger and larger crowd
gathering at City Hall in San Francisco. They were concerned
about us getting a place in line. Finally they decided to go
on over to the City ahead of us to hold a place in line.
Asia and Steph called us when they got to City Hall and broke
the disappointing news that no more marriages would take place
that day. There were hundreds of couples inside City Hall and
city staff had just announced that they just couldn't possibly
process any more applications that day. Asia and Steph insisted
that we should come over to the City anyway, just to see what
was happening, because what was going on was so amazing.
Ann and I were totally bummed out at first. We thought, Oh
my god, we missed this once in a lifetime opportunity!
Please keep in mind that never did we imagine that this would
happen in our lifetime, and no one knew from one moment to the
next how long the marriages would continue. We'd been on an
emotional roller coaster for the past 18 hours, making last
minute plans and driving in from out of town. To hear that we
couldn't marry that day, after all we'd been through, was momentarily
crushing. However, we decided that Asia and Steph were right,
that we should go over and at least cheer for and celebrate
with the couples who had been able to marry. After all, this
was history in the making, in living color! So, we collected
Shoshanna, Maha, Kalie, Reema and Christina and took BART over
to San Francisco.
When we got to the City, came up to the street and crossed
the Civic Center Plaza the atmosphere was electric. There was
so much happiness and excitement in the air! The only protesters
were a quiet group of Muslims standing across the street from
City Hall, who were peacefully standing up for what they believe
in. They were NOT being ugly and hate-filled like the people
of the extreme Christian religious right tend to be. There were
no threats or taunts, no screaming.
A jubilant crowd was gathered around the steps of the Polk Street
entrance to City Hall. There was wild cheering for each couple
who walked out the doors. Each couple stopped and flashed their
marriage certificate. Steph introduced us to an American man
who lives in Holland with his Dutch partner. He had just come
to California for a visit with his mother and when Mayor Newsom
began conducting the gay marriage ceremonies he called his partner
in Holland and said, Get on a flight! He was standing
on the steps of City Hall with his elderly mother waiting for
his partner to arrive from the airport. The whole scene was
like a spontaneous party and the mood was joyful. There was
an immediate shared intimacy in experiencing something so meaningful
that we all had hoped for, for so long.
The day was overcast, with a typical pre-rain San Francisco
sky. It was chilly and damp, but not cold. The colorful flags
flying above Civic Center Plaza lent a note of cheer against
the gray sky. There was more traffic than usual for a Sunday
afternoon as people drove down Polk Street turned onto Grove
Street and circled back up Van Ness Avenue, honking and waving
at the newlyweds. Some vehicles pulled over and double-parked
to drop couples off who were hoping to get married. There were
TV cameras and photographers everywhere and the media representatives
kept circling and juggling for the best spots for impromptu
interviews and photos.
After we were there for awhile, we discovered that folks were
lining up along Polk Street to get married on Monday, the following
day. Ann and I talked it over and we decided to go for it! We
got in line for the long overnight wait. Do you have any idea
how long it had been since Ann and I had waited on line overnight
for anything? We heard that there was another line with hundreds
of people over on Van Ness Avenue and nobody knew which line
would be let into City Hall on Monday.
Finally, after a couple of hours, city staff came out and explained
to us how they were going to proceed, and assured us that we
were in the right line for Monday. They were very friendly and
helpful and made a point of going up and down the line answering
questions and reassuring people. They told us that we could
not put up tents or make fires and that the Sheriff was encouraging
us all to go home for the night where it would be safe and warm.
Whenever we would ask, Well, what will happen if we stay?
the staff would smile and reply; He is a very nice sheriff.
Our family eventually left to go home. It was very difficult
for them to leave us; they all had wanted so badly to be present
when we got married.
On hearing the news of our intention to marry that day, my sister
Victoria and her girlfriend Bernadette had cleaned Victoria's
house in Fairfax top-to-bottom. They'd gone shopping and were
organizing a spur-of-the-moment post-marriage party for us for
that evening. Sister Amy was planning to leave work and drive
all the way from Santa Cruz north to Fairfax for the party.
And, our dogs and kitties were still home alone.
We had to inform everyone of our new plans for the evening.
We called Victoria about the party and called my mom to pass
the word to Amy. Luckily we were able to reach our neighbor
Sam in Grass Valley to ask him to continue to care for our animals.
Everyone was supportive and more than cooperative!
At about 1:00 p.m. we settled ourselves in line and began to
chat and meet the folks around us. There was an instant camaraderie
created by what we were all there for, and by our shared decision
to spend the night on the street together. The first woman we
met was an attorney who had just flown in from Baltimore with
her partner, another lawyer. Ann and Tina had heard the news
of what was occurring in San Francisco and had scrambled to
line up childcare for their four-year old daughter and to cover
their respective cases at work. Relying on frequent flyer miles
to make the flight affordable, they booked last minute reservations
and flew across the country to get married. Ann staked out a
place in our line and Tina was waiting in the Van Ness Avenue
line. Once we were given the word that the Polk Street line
would be the one for Monday, Tina came and joined us.
Charli and Tina from Oakland, the younger couple behind us,
could not stay and spend the night. They had previous plans
and reservations for the evening and one of the women had a
health condition that made it unwise for her to spend the night
on her feet or sitting on cold concrete. We offered to hold
their place in line and they promised to return early in the
morning with coffee. It had begun to sprinkle and before they
left, Charli gave me her umbrella. Their place was quickly filled
by two other women, Micki and Debrah from Berkeley. Micki and
Debrah were closer to our age and had four grown children themselves.
Debrah is a retired marine biologist and Micki is a biology
teacher at Cal State Hayward. Behind the biologists were three
younger male couples who had just flown in from San Diego. In
front of Ann and Tina were two State Park employees, Karen and
Diane. The youngsters of our little crowd-within-a-crowd were
Alicia and Melissa, a delightful couple from Concord, CA. People
were there from all over California. Also in the line were couples
from New York, Tennessee, Nevada, Texas, Maryland, Georgia and
Florida. People in line with us had come from as far away as
Thailand and New Zealand.
Early in the evening our dear friends Debra and Sherry from
Alameda made the trek across the Bay to deliver a double lawn
chair, a beach umbrella, chocolate, sandwiches, water, a sleeping
bag and rain ponchos. We had arrived in the City totally unprepared
for what we were now doing, and the weather report was getting
worse by the minute. Later on, Maha and Asia came back to San
Francisco with my medication. Asia loaned us her socks from
Ireland so that our feet would stay warm. Shoshanna and Maha
had given us money. My cell phone was ringing nonstop with family
and friends checking in. Kalie and Christina came over twice
to check on us. They wandered the line and visited with us and
our new MBs (Marriage Buddies). Our friend Debra returned
about 11:00 p.m. that night with a home-cooked brisket that
Sherry had baked and hot mashed potatoes, paper plates and plastic
forks. We shared the hot food with as many folks around us as
we could. Those meat and potatoes went fast; melted in our mouths...
As night fell the weather got colder. First it began to pour,
then the wind off the ocean picked up. Weather-wise it was a
very rough night. The beach umbrella blew apart within the first
hour. I could not get the umbrella that Charli had given to
me to open. Baltimore Ann gave me another umbrella. Someone
from the community went to an all-night Walgreen's and bought
boxes of those large, plastic lawn trash bags and passed them
out. We tried to cover up with them, but the wind kept blowing
them away. Some folks bought tarps and tied them to mailboxes
or newspaper stands or whatever was available that wasn't blowing
away. Micki and Debrah behind us huddled with a sleeping bag
across their laps and a rubber air mattress that they'd had
in the car over their heads. At one point Melissa, in front
of us, went to her van and got out her dog carrier, set it up,
covered it with plastic and crawled inside of it. Anything to
hold her place in line and to have some protection from the
weather! Baltimore Ann and Tina rented a hotel room a few blocks
away and took turns grabbing some warmth and sleep. Ann and
Tina also bought some extra gloves and distributed them. My
Ann was able to go to their hotel room for awhile. She dried
her shoes and clothes with a hair dryer and caught a few hours
of sleep. Her feet had gotten so wet that her toes actually
wore holes through her socks! The young men from San Diego set
their lawn chairs up in a small circle and perched umbrellas
over each chair. It was comforting to hear them laughing and
sharing stories. It was like being at camp, "Marriage Camp,
San Francisco!" As the weather worsened one by one some
folks left the line and headed for shelter in cars or wherever
they could find it. Those of us who stayed offered to save their
spaces. At one point I was saving places for four other couples.
Even though we were temporarily losing folks to the weather,
couple by couple the line continued to grow throughout the night.
Down the street, around the block. Between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.
we grew pretty quiet. It was so cold and so wet and windy and
we were all so tired, we had to hunker down and conserve our
energy. Many of us arent spring chickens any more. The
storm and long hours were hard on the bones of many of us older
The truly incredible thing about our experience was that beginning
late Sunday afternoon and continuing all night long, people,
gay and straight, streamed by giving us their love and support.
Folks came by throughout the entire night with coffee, tea,
bottled water, donuts, flowers, candy, and fruit trying to make
us more comfortable. San Francisco's famous Sisters of Perpetual
Indulgence came through, dressed to the nines in full costume,
passing out blessings and homemade cookies. A heterosexual couple
with their children served us hot tea at 1:00 in the morning.
At 2:00 a.m. a man drove up, stopped his car, opened his trunk
and began handing out boxes of hot pizza. Two young men came
by wheeling an office chair with a picnic cooler perched on
the seat. The cooler was filled with hot chocolate and they
offered us each a cup, with or without Bailey's Irish Cream.
Many of the folks who came by were other LGBT couples whod
gotten married before us - they were very encouraging, urging
us to hang on. People drove by honking and waving and calling
out their support and congratulations. Towards morning the garbage
collectors drove through on their way to work and honked and
waved. On this night the people of San Francisco truly outdid
themselves. It was the most amazing mass outpouring of love
and goodwill that I have ever experienced.
As dawn broke the line slowly awakened. I got up to stretch
and nearly fell over. My feet were so numb from the cold and
wet that I couldn't feel exactly where they were and when I'd
try to walk I would stumble. As it became light enough to see
I staggered around trying to pick up empty water bottles and
coffee cups and trash bags that had blown loose in the wind.
A young man and woman came walking down the line carrying cardboard
trays with cups of hot coffee from a nearby Starbucks. A young
woman who was passing out dry socks and sweatshirts shortly
followed them. She seemed like a saint to us. We were a motley-looking
and bedraggled crew by this point. Television vans began driving
in and jockeying for position in a lot across the street. It
was odd to spend our waking up time watching the TV antennas
rise into the air.
As we shivered and sipped coffee some guy came running down
the street all alone yelling misquotes from Christian Scripture
at us. He ran up and down the block a couple of times and at
Baltimore Ann and Tinas lead we all spontaneously broke
into several enthusiastic choruses of Were Goin
to The Chapel.
While we were praying for City Hall to open early, cold and
still bleary-eyed, we got a call on the cell phone saying that
two more Alameda friends, Mickey and Sallyanne, were around
the block in line with two of their four children! Shortly afterward
Mick and Sallyanne came round for a visit and hugs. People
were beginning to really wake up now and the line was growing
as the morning contingent of hopeful partners swelled our ranks.
One could feel the anticipation and excitement begin to build
as we recuperated from our wet and windy night and as new folks
joined us. We Marriage Buddies began to realize that this was
really going to happen, that our long night was really at an
end. We dug through wet pockets for pens and scraps of paper
and exchanged addresses and phone numbers and "Good Luck"
hugs and kisses.
The city staff and volunteers had come to work early that morning
because they were so concerned about those of us who had been
in the rain all night. They were booting up their computers
and moving as fast as they possibly could to get us inside out
of the cold. We entered City Hall a little before 10:00 a.m.
on Monday morning, after 21 hours in the line outside. Asia
and Reema showed up just as we were walking in the door. We
were SO glad to see them! And, then about a half an hour later
here came the teenagers, Christina and Kalie. When we asked
them how they managed to get in, the girls just grinned and
replied, "We told them, we had to find our moms and we
walked right in!"
The city staff and community volunteers did an incredible job
of taking thousands of people and creating an organized process
out of it all. The city staff worked long, overtime hours and
all President's Day/Valentine's Day weekend without pay. They
weren't even getting comp time for this - they just wanted to
be a part of it. They gave up their long weekend and holiday
to do this for those of us who had heretofore, and since, been
denied the right to marry. I have never seen so many people
working so hard to give a good experience to others.
Inside City Hall more volunteers brought us water, coffee, donuts
and orange juice as we slowly made our way. We were so cold,
tired and shaky. They showed us to the bathrooms and got chairs
for older folks and disabled people. They welcomed our children
and grandchildren and helped families to stay together. If we
were nervous they hugged us and told us to just keep breathing.
They volunteered as witnesses for the couples who didnt
have their own.
Some folks had clothes they'd had in cars or suitcases all night
to change into. Others were from San Francisco and had friends
bringing them their wedding outfits. People were rushing in
and out of the bathrooms changing clothes. We saw suits and
leather and beaded gowns and tuxes and all lengths and colors
of veils. A wedding fashion show supreme! And, then there were
those of us who got married in our soaking wet flannels and
jeans and sweats. Squishing across the marble floors in our
Volunteers escorted us from point to point, guiding us through
the process. We wound down and around and up and around, filed
our applications, paid the fees, had our IDs checked, got the
license typed up, then moved on to the gorgeous, domed City
Hall Rotunda for the actual ceremonies. All of a sudden everything
began to move very fast. There were about ten weddings going
on at the same time in the Rotunda and although it was noisy,
the Rotunda is a huge room and the judges and deputies and clergy
who were officiating did their very best to make each couple
feel that their ceremony was individual and personal. Flashbulbs
were going off all over the place. It was a wedding photographers
dream, a veritable Cirque du Soleil of weddings!
The vows we all were married by were short, pleasant and scripted.
They included, "With this ring I thee wed..." Well,
Ann had her diamond ring and an antique gold wedding band that
I gave her many years ago, but my band stopped fitting properly
years ago and I did not have a ring. We asked to change the
wording and Ann chose, "With this heart..." The deputy
judge who was marrying us, Jo Ann Hoenning, kept stumbling over
the "ring" and "heart" and I couldn't help
After waiting for so long, the ceremonies themselves were very
brief and it seemed but a moment before the culminating events
were over. After the actual weddings, we all went over to the
Recorders office to get our marriages registered and to
get our own copies of the licenses/certificates. The Recorder's
Office was like a zoo, albeit a happy one. Dozens upon dozens
of newlyweds milled around. While we were there Mable Teng,
the SF Assessor/Recorder gave a little talk and thanked us for
filling City Hall with our love. She asked us to pass on encouragement
when we left to the folks standing outside in the rain. Ms.
Teng is a classy lady and she emphasized how hard the City Hall
staff and volunteers were working; though that was very clear
to all of us.
Then it was out the doors and onto the City Hall steps. We flashed
our license/certificate to the crowd of well-wishers cheering
from the sidewalk and street. What a rush... A funny aside is
that as we walked out the doors, our teenagers Kalie and Christina
were just ahead of us and the crowd assumed that THEY were a
couple and cheered wildly. The girls loved it and waved and
smiled as if they were visiting royalty. We marched down the
block and it was our turn to call out our encouragement and
congratulations to those standing in line. We got to the car
and all piled in and then drove the entire block around City
Hall waving our certificate and honking. The whole block, packed
with people waiting to get in, cheered.
Off we went to the big family home in Alameda. Maha had the
kitchen table decorated with beautiful calla lilies. She had
fresh bagels and hot tea waiting for us. We changed into dry
clothes and had a little break. Then we all piled back into
our cars and went up to Fairfax. Victoria and her girlfriend
Bernadette finally got to give us our party. They had prepared
a buffet, which we enjoyed by candlelight. Victoria's partner
Bernadette took tons of pictures with her brand new camera and
she and Vic served us food and sparkling cider in front of the
fire and then we all had Valentines cake. They gave us
the most luscious long-stemmed red roses! It was the perfect
way to end the day, adding an individual touch of beauty and
intimacy that had been missing from the mass crowd scene at
City Hall. We ate and laughed and talked with our family. As
the day edged into evening we once again climbed into the car
and we finally got home to Grass Valley about 8:30 p.m. Monday
night. We were greeted by our wiggling, wagging furry four-leggeds,
the creatures that greet us as if we'd just gotten married every
day of our lives. After cups of tea and goodnight kisses to
all we finally retired for our first sleep in about forty hours.
I was never so glad to fall into our clean, warm bed!
I spent Tuesday, February 17th calling insurance companies etc.
to inform them of our new marital status and it was nice to
receive the appropriate congratulations with no weirdness at
all. We also discovered that our friends from Grass Valley,
Rick and Steve, were a half-day in line behind us on Monday
and had also gotten married! Tuesday evening Ann and I gave
an interview to our local newspaper, The Union.
I looked at our marriage certificate several times a day for
weeks, and Ann kept referring to me by all sorts of mushy nicknames,
all of which referred to the fact that we were now married.
Once the article appeared in our local paper we received many
calls and emails from local gay and lesbian couples asking for
information on how to get married. We closely followed the legal
battle in California regarding Mayor Gavin Newsom's issuing
of our marriage licenses. The radio, TV and computer in our
home were on at all times as we followed the challenges to our
marriage. We cheered for the couples marrying in New York and
Oregon, states that had quickly jumped on the wedding bandwagon.
On Sunday, February 22, 2004 San Francisco's Mayor Gavin Newsom
appeared on CNNs Late Edition. He defended
his decision against critics, saying he had an obligation to
fairness. Its about human beings, he said.
Its about human dignity. Its about advancing
and affirming marriage in a unique bond and relationship. Its
about, I think, holding truth, faith and allegiance to the constitution.
On March 11, 2004 the California Supreme Court ordered an immediate
halt to the same-sex weddings in San Francisco. The stay was
issued pending a hearing and ruling by the California Supreme
Court as to whether or not Mayor Gavin Newsom had the authority
to issue our marriage licenses.
On May 17, 2004 it became legal in the state of Massachusetts
for same-sex couples to wed. That decision is being challenged
and could go before the people of Massachusetts for a vote as
early as November 2006.
On August 12, 2004 our over 4,161 marriages were nullified.
The marriages sanctioned in San Francisco February 12 --March
12, 2004 were voided when the California Supreme Court ruled
that Mayor Gavin Newsom overstepped his authority by issuing
licenses to same-sex couples.
We grieved. We raged. We assured one another than nobody could
take away our "real" marriages, that we felt just
as married as ever. And, we became marriage equality activists,
by the thousands.
In February of 2005 I became the leader of the Nevada County
Chapter of Marriage Equality California. We spent the next eight
months working nonstop with Equality California to pass marriage
equality legislation in California.
On June 28, 2005 Canada legalized same-sex marriage.
(This) is about the Charter of Rights, Prime Minister
Paul Martin said. We are a nation of minorities. And in
a nation of minorities, it is important that you dont
cherry-pick rights. A right is a right and that is what this
vote tonight is all about.
Spain legalized same-sex marriage on July 3, 2005 by statute.
On September 1, 2005 the California Senate passed AB 849, marriage
equality legislation authored by Assemblyman Mark Leno. On September
6, 2005 AB 849 was passed by the California Senate, making the
California legislature the first state legislature in the Union
to pass marriage equality legislation in both houses! We celebrated
elatedly! On September 29, 2005 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
chose to veto that historic civil rights legislation.
On December 1, 2005 a court decision in South Africa legalized
same-sex marriages. That decision will not go into effect for
twelve months to allow time for legislative action.
Ann and I continue to experience the negative effects of our
inability to be legally married. Last year Kalie was hospitalized.
Although she was Ann's dependent and Ann's insurance was paying
for the hospitalization; although she had Ann and I listed on
all the hospital forms as her parents and emergency contacts;
although they had Kalie's permission to talk to Ann, the hospital
staff and doctors refused to speak with Ann about Kalie's condition
and treatment. They maintained that Ann is a legal stranger
to Kalie and that they would be breaking confidentiality laws
by including her.
This past February Ann had a heart attack. When she was being
transferred from our small local hospital to a Cardiac unit
in Sacramento I was told to follow the ambulance. However, because
we are not married, I had to first drive home, locate our California
Domestic Partner Registration and our Medical Powers of Attorney,
make copies of all that paperwork and then drive to where theyd
transferred Ann. I had to be able to prove who I was to her
so that the doctors would talk to me and so that I could be
have access to her. When I arrived Ann had already been taken
into surgery. When she finally awoke much later that night the
first thing she said to me was, Where were you? I was
alone. I was so afraid and I didnt know where you were.
Had we been married, I would have been there, holding her hand
and reassuring her, as she went into surgery - she would have
known I was there and waiting for her. That is how it should
in Nevada County we marriage equality supporters are now organized
as a chapter of Marriage Equality USA-California. www.marriageequality.org
We are continuing to work at the local, state and national levels
for the right of same-gender couples to enter into full, legal,
civil marriage. Ann and I truly believe that marriage equality
is a given --it will happen in our lifetimes, it is but a matter
of when. For now, we continue to work with our LGBT and non-gay
allies, talking to everyone we know, having those conversations,
"changing hearts and minds." We all deserve equal
access under the law and it is incumbent upon all of us to work
towards that goal.
"This civil rights struggle will be the most romantic in
history... we stand to breathe new life and vitality into that
civil institution that is regarded so casually by those who
can afford to take this right for granted.
~ Molly McKay, Media Director, Marriage Equality USA
The End, just Another Beginning...
same-sex marriage status:
Legalized in the Netherlands in 2001, in Belgium in 2003,
in Canada in 2005, in Spain in 2005, and in South Africa in
2005 (South African ruling not in effect until December 2006).
In the United States, Massachusetts is the only state where
same-sex marriage is legal. However, same-sex married couples
in Massachusetts still cannot access any federal rights related
to marriage and their marriages are not legally recognized
in any other state in the Union. California, Connecticut,
Washington DC, Hawaii, Maine, Vermont and New Jersey are the
only states that provide partial state benefits and protections
to same-sex couples via Domestic Partnerships, Civil Unions
or reciprocal beneficiary laws.
YOU CAN DO:
involved with your National and State equality organizations:
Human Rights Campaign
This story is dedicated to the woman I have chosen to spend
my life with, Phoebe Ann Brown. Thank you for your love, my
dearest Sweetheart. I am so blessed to be able to share my
heart and home with you.
And, to our family, thank you each and every one for your
ongoing love and support. You all make everything possible
and always keep it interesting!