It’s been more than three years since I pushed the table aside at our favorite German restaurant and descended onto a knee - clumsily telling Jay that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I remember his face as I did it, how it brightened, how the smile so quickly stretched from ear to ear, how his eyes sparkled to life. He bounced a little in his chair, spreading his smile even wider with excitement and pleasure, as he listened to me tell him I thought we were the best couple on the planet, that we had been made for one another, that there was simply no possibility that I was designed to spend my life with anyone else.
He knew the truth in my words, and I knew he already knew. That psychic connection has been ever-present between us since before we even met – since the moment he first walked up behind me and I felt a coming of something, an urgency, and I braced myself as if a wave were about to wash over me. I turned in the direction of this utterly new feeling and saw his face smiling down at me, his hand already extending in my direction, that smile already spreading over his face as he spoke his first words to me, “Hi, I’m Jay.” It wasn’t love at first sight, it was the awakening of a new sensory receptor that only his presence stimulated – an entirely new feeling that I came to realize was true, pure spiritual kinship.
So, I knew when I kneeled before him and asked for his hand in marriage that he would say yes. I knew that we would continue to live our lives together, as we were meant to. And we have. More than three years have passed since that day. And we are together. And we love each other. And we’re happy. We’ve nothing to prove to anyone – not our love, not the strength of our commitment, nor our devotion to one another. We’re just together, as we should be – as we know we are supposed to be. That’s been enough.
And so last week I hardly took notice when I saw the headline announcing that our mayor was going to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, in defiance of state law. I had no idea how exciting the following day was going to be for us. It was around 10:30am, Friday, February 13, 2004 when Jay sent me an instant message over the computer, “Do you want to get married today?” I didn’t need to think about it. It would be the most natural thing in the world, and this might be our only chance.
We each left work early and went to City Hall. A man stood on the steps, shouting. He was a large, slovenly oaf. “You’re going to Hell!” he yelled. I walked up to him and took his picture. “You faggots!” he screamed. I smiled at him, and we went inside. “There was only one,” I said to Jay. “I can’t believe there was just one of them.”
Our friend Melissa joined us, as excited as we were. The line to obtain the marriage certificate stretched around the rotunda, down a hallway, through the cafeteria, down a flight of stairs, down another hallway, around a corner, back through the hallway, up the stairs into the cafeteria again, through yet another hallway, and around a corner down one final long hallway to the County Clerk’s office.
We stood in line 4 1/2 hours. Melissa waited with us the entire time. On either side of us, other couples weathered the line with us. Thousands of tired feet began to ache, but no one complained. There was only joy and hope and optimism. And love. The people around us became our friends, and eventually even seemed like family to us. Volunteers were standing by to help us, to make sure we knew where to go and to make sure we filled out the right information on the forms. Even these helpers, who had been on their feet all day, giving their time for free, were full of joy for us. Some people came out of their offices and were volunteering to be witnesses, because many couples had shown up not realizing that a witness was required.
Finally, we reached the front of the line and obtained the marriage certificate. When we walked back down the hall, where hundreds of eager couples still waited like we had, they began to clap and cheer for us, shouting congratulations. We walked by, smiling and thanking them, and proceeded upstairs to have our ceremony under the ornate dome of the rotunda.
Some of our closest friends came to watch our ceremony, but when I took Jay’s hand and looked into his eyes, I was thinking only of him. And when the justice asked me if I promised to love him, to honor, respect, and protect him, come what may, through sickness and in health, ‘til death do we part, it felt like he was lifting the words right from my heart. I felt my eyes filling a bit, but I smiled to keep from crying, and said, “I do.” And I kept smiling as the justice asked the same of Jay, and he looked into my eyes and made me the same promise. And all I was thinking at that moment was that this wonderful, beautiful man had just promised to love me, before our friends and the entire world – no matter what – for the rest of my life.
I won’t forget how real it was. In that moment, with so much going on all around us, it was just the two of us, just our promises to each other, just us. I wasn’t thinking of the millions of people who want to keep us from making these promises. And now I know they have lost. Whatever may happen, we have had that moment – nothing and no one can take it away from us.
After the ceremony, we went to the final office, where we were given our formal marriage license. Many of the people we had stood in line with were there and many other people we hadn't met before. When our names were called, we got up and were handed our license, and everyone congratulated us.
I asked the lady, "Are we done? Is this the end?"
Someone said, "Now you have the rest of your lives together!" and I said, "Of course! What was I thinking? This is only the beginning!"
Six-hundred gay and lesbian couples were married that day. In the days that followed, three-thousand more couples were wed. The city of San Francisco is still defying the state, and has vowed to continue until ordered by the courts to stop. Thus far, no judge has issued any such order. A coalition of churches and other religious organizations has publicly announced its support and belief in the holiness of these unions. Meanwhile, the state, and the nation, is embroiled in controversy.
I didn’t ask for my wedding day to be a political event. It was, for me, a proud declaration to the world of my love and devotion to Jay. It was good. And it was right. And for anyone who was there to witness that day, to say what we did was controversial – to say we should not have been allowed to do it – is simply unfathomable.
I’ve posted our photos on Ofoto.com, and you can see them by clicking the following link:Our Wedding
Each picture is captioned, but I suppose it's pretty self-explanatory. Enjoy!