February – Happy Anniversary

Today is the anniversary of our first wedding. February 17, 2004. It was legal, and then it wasn’t.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, who I’ll always admire, had sanctioned same sex marriages in San Francisco so Mary Anne and I decided to go over to City Hall,  I think we taxied over, our place was in South of Market and not that far away. We stood in line with hundreds of other couples and none of us knew if it would all end before we made it to the front or if it had been a waste of time.

Strangers handed out single red roses and heart shaped cookies with red icing. It was Valentine’s Day all over again. No one noticed when it started raining because the air was filled with love. It was like nothing I had experienced before – being surrounded by hundreds of people who felt nothing but love. Invisible hearts were floating through the air like balloons.


The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus serenaded us all with many tunes including “I’m getting married in the morning.”

When our time came, we met our celebrant, Bill W. Jones, one of the many people who had become a Deputy Marriage Commissioner to deal with the throngs. He reminded us that we weren’t in any hurry. Oh, OK. Our friend Carol drove up and stood in line with us to be a witness, brought us a bouquet, and our friend Cris, also a witness, drove over from the East Bay.

Bill led us up the marble staircase and we found a private space under the grand rotunda. By the way, San Francisco City Hall is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

Afterwards, the four of us went down the street to Absinthe Brasserie. The place was filled with newlyweds so every single table was being congratulated by everyone else in the place, staff and customers alike. There were men in kilts, women wearing veils and bow ties, a tux or two and white wedding gowns. At least I had put on one of my hats. We ordered a dozen oysters to start, a bottle of Sancerre with three glasses and a ginger ale.  

Cris mentioned she had nicked a MUNI bus while grabbing a primo parking space to catch up with us. The driver stopped the bus and while all the passengers got off, she spoke to Cris.

“You have to stay. My supervisor is on her way. We need to file a report.”

I gasped as I would have been one to follow the orders of a bus driver. Cris just said “sorry, I’m on my way to a wedding,” and ran off.  I don’t think she ever got a ticket or anything. Things in SF had warped due to the unusual happenings at City Hall and maybe traffic violations were tossed by the wayside.

That was such an exciting day.

Later, all of those marriages were declared not legal. For the days they were legal, we didn’t have many rights anyway, nothing at the federal level.

We’d have to get married again.

The next time, in 2008, we obtained an appointment at SF City Hall way in advance and had time to invite people who lived further than 30 minutes away – family and friends from New York, Connecticut, Florida, Santa Barbara, Washington D.C, and Seattle. That one held, but then same sex marriages were suspended in November 2008 until 2013 and no other same sex couples could get legally married in California but those of us who had succeeded before November were still married.

That was strange but that was the way it was.

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