By Stephen and Adam Podowitz-Thomas
‘The name marriage signifies the unique recognition that society gives to loyal and enduring relationships. Marriage is the sincere desire to join two lives together as one in hopes that the love that brought them together will grow, branch out, and touch the lives of those around them. For the beauty it surrounds us with, for the strength it instills deep inside us, for the peace it brings to our hearts, we honor the sacred tradition of marriage today.’
I sat, gaze affixed to the television, as I witnessed a moment that I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to see. Kamala Harris, the Attorney General for California, was officiating the marriage of Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, two of the plaintiffs in the Hollingswoth v. Perry case which had been decided a mere two days earlier by the Supreme Court of the United States. San Francisco City Hall was filled with people and the local news stations were broadcasting the ceremony live throughout the region.
Sign posted outside the Marriage License Office at SF City Hall during Pride Weekend 2013
It was Pride weekend in San Francisco and it was already going to be a hugely celebratory one, with victories in both the Perry and Windsor cases having been handed down that week, but now the reality of this momentous change was being aired in my home and I couldn’t stop the tears.
Stephen and I had been engaged for over a year and had been in a domestic partnership for close to eight months, after a health scare made decision-making rights a bit more important than they had been during the early phases of our relationship. Our wedding, complete with a minister, a rabbi, a caterer, (no, I’m not starting a joke) and of course our friends and family from around the country, was scheduled for August. We had planned the event as a gathering to solemnize the commitment we had made to each other in that UPS store when our DP forms were notarized. Not once, in any of that time, did we even begin to think that both our state and federal governments would affix the name “marriage” to our relationship. Sure, we’d call each other husbands and in the eyes of those that mattered to us, we’d be married. But that wouldn’t get us the rights that we wanted and felt we deserved.
When the Ninth Circuit dissolved its stay following the Supreme Court decision, thus opening the doors for marriages in California, Stephen and I had hurriedly conferred about whether we wanted to go ahead and get the official paperwork done. We’d decided that, with our wedding in August so close, and our DP final, there was no hurry. We’d go to Pride, enjoy the ebullient crowds, and then go back to our day-to-day lives for a few more weeks before celebrating our own relationship as planned.
San Francisco City Marriage License
On Saturday of Pride Weekend, we were taking the train to Stephen’s favorite hair stylist (no, I’m not making this up). On the train back, filled with teenagers excited to be leaving the suburbs and attending their first Pride, we talked about the “what ifs” of the marriage decision. What if someone sued again and marriages were again put on hold? What if this was another one of those short windows, which California had already experienced, when same-sex couples could get real, tangible equality and what if we missed it?
Pondering the what-ifs made us nervous. We didn’t want to be on the outside of the window in August, kicking ourselves for not taking action now. San Francisco had announced they were keeping City Hall open during the weekend to process marriage licenses for same-sex couples and, well, we were on our way through the city, so why not? Yeah, we were unshaven, wearing t-shirts and shorts, and hadn’t told a soul we were even considering it. But we weren’t going to put ourselves in a place where we had to make some kind of sad recognition at our wedding that we hadn’t gotten a civil license, that our marriage was a commitment to one another that the state and federal authorities didn’t care about.
We called up every friend we had in SF to see if anyone had time to make their way to City Hall. Luckily, one of my best friends from high school was available and, even better, could bring a really nice camera. We called our parents to inform them about our last minute decision, to their complete disbelief. We stood in line, and filed for our license among other couples who couldn’t believe all of this was actually happening and City officials who were truly proud of getting to do their jobs. Emily arrived, we met our officiant, an awesome SFMTA bus driver who had volunteered to come in and marry couples on what otherwise would have been a day off, and then, within minutes, we were standing in front of each other, hearing the same words used for our ceremony that had brought me to tears the day before.
Happy and Married, if Unshaven
Of course, we know in retrospect we weren’t in a rush. No further delays or stays were implemented and we could have just filed for our license before our wedding in August. But being at City Hall, surrounded by tearful, joyous celebrations, in turn surround by hordes of revelers at the Pride Festival, is an irreplaceable and important milestone in Stephen and I’s relationship. It’s something neither one of us would ever trade. We feel incredibly lucky to have been part of that weekend and with Pride coming up this week, excited to celebrate our own one-year anniversary, along with hundreds of other couples in California. Happy Pride everyone!