: views from the Hill

Thursday, February 10, 2005

It's been a year, come this Saturday

It will be a year, come this Saturday, since Gavin allowed same-sex marriages in San Francisco. At the time he said that to do otherwise would be to continue with "a separate but unequal process for people to engage in marriages."

This Saturday Gavin's having a celebration down at City Hall. We're invited.

The older niblet wrote about it best in a note dated 27 February 2004.


So, it's been a long two weeks. (Two weeks? Gah, no idea where the time's been going). I've been busy at school, making up for the lost day or two last week and catching up to speed after having to juggle classes around in some interesting and unusual ways. Now that I'm back on an even keel, I can finally sit down and write the email I wanted to send to everyone last week at this time. Sorry for taking so long, it's just been an interesting time.

So we're married. It still seems an amazing thing that I spend half the time not believing, and the other half in stunned amazement. If nothing else, this is certainly not the way I ever thought things would happen.

Bill and I have been living together for almost two years now (he moved down March 28th, 2002), and we've known each other/dated/had a relationship for some 14 months before that. So three years altogether, give or take. Our first year living together was sort of a test to see if it could work. And it did, it really did. On our first anniversary, we proposed to each other and made plans for a ceremony of some sort once I'd graduated from college and had a job. We'd do all the legal paperwork that sorta-kinda gives you some of the legal rights that marriage does, Bill would use Sun's domestic partner benefits and that would be that.

Then Newsom pulled his Valentine's Day surprise and that all went to heck pretty quick. I first heard what was going on late Thursday in passing and didn't exactly understand what was going on. It sounded just like another symbolic act by the city and since I only had a vague fragment from someone's blog to go on, it didn't register too much. Friday, some actual information started filtering out on exactly what was going on. It was very cool to hear about, but it wasn't until the actual I Was There stories started coming on late Friday/Saturday that I started to realize just what was going on up in SanFran. So Saturday, Bill has to head out to run errands he wasn't able to get to Friday. I stayed behind so I could draw up a V-Day card and perhaps grab flowers or some other surprises. And I read more of what's happening in San Francisco, starting to realize that this is more then just a ceremonial demonstration, but the actual real thing.

Bill was delivering a Palm to a friend of ours, who I called to let know that he was on his way. "Oh, you're not with him? I thought for sure you two would be up in the city today getting married." What, they're still doing the weddings? But it's the weekend holiday? Besides, we were going to wait until after graduation and… "Oh no, they're staying open special all weekend long. Monday too. All volunteer." So I deliver the message and get off the phone, and then sit down to ponder. Even have writings to myself around here somewhere of what was going through my mind.

We've been trying so hard to do this all by the book, to make sure there are no regrets, no entanglements, that this beautiful wonderful thing we have between us lasts, and that we don't screw it up. Marriage isn't something you rush into by any stretch, and it does change everything, and we did want to wait and do it right, but… But this was IT. A once in a lifetime chance, the real actual thing. Something we never thought we'd have a chance at for years and years to come was suddenly there, actual legal recognition. Not domestic partnership or civil unions, but full on blown marriage. It was… intoxicating, mind swimmingly intoxicating. To have real solid proof of our bond and love. By all rights, a piece of paper shouldn't mean anything, but it does. I don't know why, but it does, and here was a chance to have it, to claim it. To take a stand and show to the world how much we cared for and loved each other, and to be a part of history. The last part was the one that stuck on me the most. The thought of being able to look back and say I was there was an empowering one, but I didn't want it to be such an overpowering reason that it downed out the rest. So I worried and fretted and paced and angsted over whether I should propose for real this time, whether we should do this, was it just the heat of the moment, would it be good, was I just doing this for selfish reasons, so on, so forth. It was Saturday afternoon, meaning we had two days left before the Tuesday cutoff. Sunday, Monday. So if we –were- going to do it, it had to be now, very little time for planning or thought. No time to tell anyone, or check, or even have clean clothes or rings, definitely not how I wanted to do it, but… It was our chance. Our one and only.

And so around and around the thought process went.

By the time Bill got home, I was a nervous wreck from the Should We, Shouldn't We game. Took me a good bit before I got up the nerve to ask, can't even remember how I managed to get it out. Then the whole game started again, with both of us playing, all afternoon and night long. In the end, we decided to do it the very next day. We'd been together for two years plus, our love has only been getting deeper and wider, there was nothing to say we wouldn't be together decades down the line, and most straight couples would be working on their second kid by this point.

All of the nice clothes were at the cleaners, which wasn't open on the weekend. No problem, a few spares and pseudo-nice clothes were scrounged up and thrown in the dryer to de-wrinkle quicklike. Bill took the two rings from his personal collection he'd used to propose the year before to be used as the actual wedding rings until we saved up for replacements. The one I got can only fit on my pinky, what with the fatness of my third joint. We had just about enough money for the certificate and ceremony, coupled with BART tickets and food, so we were all set. Early to bed, a night of tossing and turning, and then up at 6:30 and out the door. We got to City Hall at 11:30, doors had opened at 10. Due to strangeness and overflow from the day before, they were already filled up, no chance to get in. WE stayed anyway, just in case. It was horribly demoralizing at first, but then we spent some six odd hours on the front steps amongst the crowds cheering and applauding all the couples that came out. It was the most powerful and moving experience of my life.

It was intimidating is what it was. There were 80 year old men coming out arm in arm, mothers and fathers with two or three kids behind them. And given the short timing, I don't know where some of these women got their dresses. Saving them for years just in case? There were entire families turning out, wizened old Koreans beaming proudly as their granddaughters kissed on the steps. Someone had ordered endless bouquets of flowers that were being handed out to anyone who came out, the steps were littered with petals and rice, there were signs and cheers, someone somewhere had a bubbleblower, there were a pair of boys on the front steps who kept running out to grab flowers and rice between moments so they could throw them all over again.

Across the street were perhaps a dozen Indians with signs reading "Even animals don't have homosex relations!!!!" who refused to speak to anyone. Another woman showed up as far away from them as she could be while still being across from the City Hall steps cradling a picture of Jesus, though she left after an hour or two. After the light drizzle started around two thirty, the Indians left as well, leaving us in peace. Those were, by the way, the only protesters we saw all weekend, save for someone out Monday morning with a bible who made two circuits of the line and then left. Also Indian, which makes me believe he was from the same group.

Then there were the cars honking and cheering as they passed, the news cameras set up. I even managed to get a picture of Mayor Newsom slipping in while people were distracted, though he got spotted right before getting in the door, leading to a truly massive cheer.

So, by four we were told no go. People were starting to set up for overnight camps, though we were told that without porta-potties or police patrols, the SFPD were required by law to send people away at nightfall. It was starting to rain and get windy, and we had no sleeping bags or umbrellas, so home we went.

We went home, and fell straight asleep, woke up at 3:30, got the first BART train up at 5:52, arrived in San Francisco and got in line by 6:45. The line already stretched around the entirety of the building, around three corners and half a block away from wrapping around the fourth and meeting up with itself. It was cold, dark, windy, rainy. Absolutely horrible. There were hundreds of people there, many had spent the whole night. There were porta-potties set up on one corner, I have no idea who donated them. I heard later that police officers had volunteered to patrol City Hall that night on their own free time, meaning that the campers could stay legally. It was… Giddy, anticipatory. No one had any idea how many people would be married that day, the figure stood at 400 reportedly, though rumors where rampant. We were somewhere between 300 and 500 people down the line, so we were extremely worried we wouldn't get in at all. The couple in front of us were an older lesbian pair who had come up to San Francisco for their 23rd anniversary that weekend, had heard about the marriages the day before and had shown up just minutes before us. Their best friend from down south had apparently spent the previous afternoon and night driving up to be their bridesmaid/bestman/witness/photographer. She brought plastic garbage bags to help give us some more water protection, then went off to see if Starbucks was open yet.

The doors opened early, at 8, to let in the first 200 people who'd been out in the rain all night. People started moving along the lines with giant bags of bagels, big cases of coffee from Starbucks and Pete's, water, donuts, all sorts of stuff. A dozen different people and small groups who'd all come up with the idea to supply breakfast to us poor folks in line. We started hearing that the number of people married might be as high as 500, and as people packed up camping gear, and the first 200 were let in, we moved up until we were at the opposite entrance from the main City Hall steps. It was rainy and miserable, but we were enjoying it. Everyone was. Everyone was friends, entire swaths of conversation groups forming along the lines, coffee and food moving their ways back and forth, the constant honking of horns, the rain, the cheers every time we moved up a little bit further, the people running up and down the lines counting couples and figuring out what chance they had, the rain, the sheer mass of people. Well over a thousand, perhaps as high as two thousand. The couples, the well wishers, the helpers, the witnesses, the friends, the family. We had tour buses passing by, Japanese tourists with cameras flashing, cheering and waving and giving broad thumbs up. Taxi cabs, city buses, just a sheer mass of people.

By the time we had rounded the corner and were within sight of the steps, things had started to just fizz in my head. Someone pulled up right in front of us and started unloading some 20-30 Domino's pizza boxes and handing them out to people in line. When I asked if he was with any of the other groups that had been handing out drinks earlier, he seemed stunned that anyone else had thought of the idea as well. Spur of the moment thing, he said. Next to us, the friend of the gay couple behind us in line was ranting about how utterly fringing terrific this all was, and how back in 1950, -she- couldn't marry anyone she wanted to (gorgeous young black woman), and f-ck if the government wasn't going to let her two favorite 'boys' from marrying anyone they wanted to as well. She'd arrived around 10 or so after driving up from somewhere down south, didn't catch exactly where. Lots more news cameras out in front by the time we got there. Had a few interviews around us, but we were never chosen, alas. By now, the number of expected marriages was up to 600, but we still had our fingers crossed, just in case. The first married couples were already on their way out, driving by in their cars, waving certificates in the air, hurrying past on the sidewalk, rice in their hair, tears on their cheeks. Demonstrators with "We all deserve the right to marry" signs were all over the steps. The statue of Abe Lincoln in front was bearing one of the signs and a rainbow flag, looking faintly bemused as he posed dramatically.

By the time we reached the steps, we had certificates for 15% off meals at restaurants, honeymoon suites in town, jewelry store coupons and more. Need to solve your state's sluggish economy? Apparently gay marriage is just the jumpstart it needs. There was talk that the local Starbucks was running low on supplies and had done more business that weekend then in the previous month. I'm sure Domino's was similarly thrilled. We picked our way among the rice and flowers, getting a few of our own, slowly moving up the steps, and then IN!

Inside, which meant it was going to happen, they couldn't stop us now. No cutoff, we had made it! We were somewhere in the 500s, latter found out they did some 750-850 that day, so we were never in any danger of not getting in, but still. Hundreds of volunteers helping out, a goodly number who had fresh rings and certificates of their own. A woman and her girl snuck in with us as our 'witness' so she could find her friends already inside. Met up with her later on, safely joined up with her group, some four or five kids playing tag in the grand hall while paperwork was being filled out. A fun little maze run followed as we traced along City Hall's insides, finally making our way to the processing room. Couldn't move in there, the six computers for the 30 applicants a day working overtime for the 800+ they had to deal with. Milling crush of people waiting for paperwork, and then squeezing out and being lead around another winding path to the main hall.

The place is beautiful, I have the pictures to prove it. Not as many, or as unblurred as I would've liked, but we were kinda in a rush by that point. There were eight, nine ceremonies going on at once under the dome, the line moving disturbingly quick. We shucked off jackets and packs and dumped them along the side, then sent up the stairs to our waiting guide/witness.

I can't really describe this whole sequence properly. The utter mindswiming euphoria, the panicked anticipation and joy, the just gut wrenching nervousness and happiness. We were married at 2:00, give or take. I fumbled the ring so badly, Bill had to help me get it on. Neither of us were able to say our lines with an unwavering voice. In the pictures, we both look horrid. Bill trying so hard to keep control he looks almost sullen, me on the verge of tears. Both of us water stained and exhausted from the elements, lack of sleep and physical stress. We were pronounced "Husband and husband, spouses for life.", hugged and embraced. The both of them must've seen over a hundred marriages over the day and previous, but they were still brimming with joy for us. On the way back down, we passed a priest, (can't remember how to spell the name, starts with an E?) with a gay couple and two dozen family members starting their ceremony at the top of the steps.

Another hour was spent getting our special copy of the certificate and then marching out the door, waving it atop City Hall steps, getting a surprise hug and kiss from Bill and then making our way through the gauntlet of rice, people and cameras and on our way back home to sleep.

At the BART station, we were stopped by a man who'd just come down the stairs on his way to another train to say he'd seen us at City Hall, and gave us his deepest congratulations, and then he was gone.

It's hard to get across the sheer joy in all of this. Almost mind numbing. I have plenty to say about the repercussions, and my thoughts on Governor Arnold, President Bush, marriage equality and so on and so forth, but it really must wait for a separate writing, this is long enough as it is. I will say this, however.

As far as most of the country, people and legality alike, view it, our marriage isn't worth the paper the certificate is printed on, and we both know this. We've already committed to each other in heart, mind and spirit, so a legal document to that effect really shouldn't mean all that much.

But it does. I don't understand why, I can't explain why, but it does. I am married now. We are married, and I am still in a state of constant shock and joy because of it. All those poreish empty places inside that riddled the foundations of myself, that harbored all those hidden doubts and worries and constant background unease are gone. Just.. gone. I've always felt like I stood at the top of a tower, with foundations that barely stood in the wind, but now it's just flat solid ground. Even now, two weeks later, as bits of the initial glow fade down to background joy, that remains rock solid. I remain rock solid. I feel more fulfilled, more perfect, more right then I ever dreamed I could. I feel complete in ways I never imagined possible. This is RIGHT, this is PROPER this is how it should be, how it must be.

In the debates over marriage equality, there is always much todo about legal rights, visitation, right of attorney, inheritance, taxes, childrearing and so forth, but to me none of that matters. Love matters. This man sitting beside me conquering Europe matters. The bond that we share, the melding of minds and souls and the love between us matters. And now that bond is deeper and truer than it ever was before, than it could've ever hoped to be before. To deny this love, this trueness, this peace is worse then criminal, it is to deny someone the right to their soul's peace and sanctity. And I overflow with joy that I now have it, and I will do anything to ensure that we are not the only ones, that it doesn't end here with 8,000 people in San Francisco, but that it extends to anyone and everyone who's been denied this basic human joy for all their years and decades of partnership. And I thank all of you from the very bottom of my heart for sharing in this joy with me. I truly cannot thank you all enough.

Once I've completed college and have a job, we're doing this again. A "religious" ceremony as opposed to the civil one. Actual invitations and guests will be involved, honest to goodness. Vows and Champagne and cake also promise to be in attendance. And in 50 years, Bill and I look forward to standing on the San Francisco City Hall steps with all the others still alive and pose for the tri-vid news cameras as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of equal marriage rights.

And now, math homework. Because for the teachers at Cabrillo "I got married" is an event, but not an excuse.

Love you all,

No comments: