In 2004, Gavin Newsom (San Francisco’s Mayor) became a soldier for marriage equality. For a brief window of time, before lesbian and gay marriages were temporarily shut down, same-sex couples obtained licenses and exchanged vows throughout California. My husband and I were living in Mill Valley, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and we attended two weddings during that pivotal period.
Hillary and Kathy walked down the aisle wearing classic black suits. My husband sang an a cappella Hebrew prayer. The wedding took place before fifty people, in a restaurant, with many guests participating in the ceremony. I was honored to officiate, standing under a huppa (a hand-stitched canopy). Hillary stomped on a glass, and Mazel Tov filled the room. People heaped their plates from the buffet, and mingled on the deck.
A few weeks later, Trixie dressed in a traditional wedding gown; her bride, Carla, wore a tux. They were married by a judge, in City Hall, with a sit-down dinner for 200 guests. They walked down the aisle to The Crystals, “Going To The Chapel.” Carla led Trixie through the first dance, replete with twirls and dips. They invited “anyone who is married, who couldn’t marry before” to join them. Five couples walked onto the dance floor, two gay, three lesbian. Nobody dancing, not a single person, grew up expecting to marry. Not one of them took this moment for granted. The quality of joy was elemental.
At a certain point, both couples toasted their guests. Curiously, these women, so different in style, chose the exact same words. “We want to thank all of you for always treating us like a real couple.”
As a straight woman, I never experienced the casual chipping away at the spirit, being treated as less than a full person, less that a real couple. Now, two couples, four fine people, stood empowered before their loved ones, celebrating their unions, finally recognized as real.
Today, nearly two decades later, both of these couples remain together and strong. I carry their weddings within me, the validation they experienced, the empowerment. They were a part of history, today’s yesterday, two real couples paving the way for a better tomorrow.