One couple’s big day in San Francisco
Ann Brown and I have been lovers, life partners and co-parents for 181Ú2 years. Four of our kids are now grown; our last teenager is still here at home, as well as a 19-year-old woman who is a close friend of the family.
Our youngest will be 18 years old in a couple of weeks. We have two grandchildren and a third on the way. We have witnessed our two sons’ weddings but we, ourselves, have not been able to legally marry. We have never had a public commitment ceremony. We are planning to have a celebration of our relationship with all of our family and friends on our 20th anniversary in October of 2005.
Ann has wanted to get married, to have a ceremony recognizing our relationship, since we first got together. I was not enthusiastic about the idea because I was so disturbed by the civil rights issue, the fact that we did not have the choice, the right, to marry legally …
Several years ago Ann and I did register with the state of California as domestic partners. The experience was similar to getting a dog license here in Grass Valley. No one said “congratulations” or wished us well or even smiled at us. We filled out the papers, they took our money, and that was that. Ann ended up in tears.
I was out of town visiting friends and family, and Ann was home with the kitties, dogs and teenagers when she received a call from our friend Debra on Valentine’s Day, telling her about the marriages taking place in San Francisco. Ann got very excited and immediately called me long-distance and left a message on my cell phone saying, “Let’s meet in Alameda and go to San Francisco and get married!”
… When we got there, the atmosphere was electric. There was so much happiness and excitement in the air. … There was wild cheering for each couple that walked out of City Hall. Each couple stopped and flashed their marriage certificate.
We discovered that folks were lining up along Polk Street to get married on Monday, so we decided to go for it and we got in line. … City staff came out and explained to us what they were going to do and how. … 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.
Our family left to go home. … We settled ourselves in line and began to chat and meet the folks around us. … My cell phone was ringing nonstop, with family and friends checking in.
The weather got colder and first the rain started, then the wind. Weatherwise it was a very rough night. … People passed out large, plastic trash bags and we tried to cover up with them, but the wind kept blowing them away.
Two of our brand new friends in line rented a hotel room a few blocks away, and Ann was able to go blow dry her shoes and clothes with a hair dryer and to get a few hours sleep. … Those of us who stayed were charged with saving the spaces. At one point I was saving places for four other couples. … Many of us there were older folks, and the storm and long hours were hard on our bones. …
During the night, people streamed by, giving us their love and support. Folks came by every 15 minutes throughout the night with coffee, hot tea, bottled water, pizza, donuts, cookies, flowers, candy, fruit, hot chocolate. … It was the most amazing mass outpouring of love and goodwill that I have ever experienced.
The City Hall staff and volunteers had come to work early that morning because they were so concerned about all of us who had been in the rain all night. … We entered City Hall a little before 10 a.m. on Monday. …
We wound down and around and up and around, filing our applications, paying the fees, having our IDs checked, getting the license typed up, then on to the rotunda for the actual ceremony. There were about 10 weddings going on at one time in the rotunda, and although it was noisy, the rotunda is a gorgeous 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. …
The vows we all were married by were short, pleasant and scripted. They included, “With this ring I thee wed. …” Well, Ann has 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 ….”
After the actual weddings, we all went over to the recorder’s office to get our marriages registered and to get our own copies of the licenses/certificates. …
Then it was out the doors and it was our turn to flash our license/certificate and to get cheered. What a rush. … We got to the car, all piled in and drove the entire block around City Hall waving our certificate and honking.
Christine Allen and Ann Brown live in Grass Valley. Same-sex marriages in San Francisco were halted on March 11, pending a state Supreme Court decision.
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