SF celebrates 10th anniversary of first same-sex marriages

Ten years ago San Francisco gave birth to a national movement -- the city began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
February 12, 2014 5:43:17 PM PST
Ten years ago today, San Francisco gave birth to a national movement -- the city began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

I was there when it all first started. I can tell you it felt like history in the making back then. And now it's hard to believe that it was 10 years ago. On Wednesday, to celebrate the 10th anniversary, a band played wedding marches on the steps of City hall and a rainbow flag was flown, marking this milestone in gay rights.

"I got here in less than an hour from Davis," Shelly Bailes said.

Ten years ago today, Bailes and Ellen Pontac drove like crazy to make it to San Francisco City Hall.

Then Mayor Gavin Newsom had ordered the county clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

After 30 years together the couple said, "I do," and now they are back to celebrate.

"It was an incredible feeling that suddenly we could be like everyone else," Bailes said.

It would become known as the Winter of Love. For the next month, more than 4,000 couples from 46 states and 6 countries flocked to San Francisco; many waiting in lines, even in the rain for the opportunity to marry. Newsom became a hero to some but a villain to others, even within his own Democratic party.

"A lot of folks were second guessing," Newsom said. "And saying they shoulda, coulda, woulda done it a little differently. But I have no regrets."

Those marriages ten years ago were eventually voided and Newsom's actions led to a lengthy battle that included the 2008 voter approved Proposition 8, which declared marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Last June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriages are legal in California. Opponent Bill May with Catholics for the Common Good calls it a bizarre situation.

"The voters have passed Prop 8, defined marriage between a man and a woman, and our public officials are simply ignoring the state constitution that they've been sworn to uphold," he said.

But the roller coaster ride is over for California's gays and lesbians and on Wednesday afternoon they were back at City Hall where it all began, marking a tenth anniversary.


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