Couples wed in SF to commemorate 20 years since 'Winter of Love' same-sex marriages

Luz Pena Image
Thursday, February 15, 2024
Couples wed in SF to commemorate 20 years of same-sex marriages
Many couples got married in San Francisco on Valentine's Day to commemorate 20 years since the "Winter of Love" same-sex marriages.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco is not only celebrating Valentine's Day on Wednesday, but this week the city is celebrating 20 years since the "Winter of Love."

That monumental time when the city challenged state law and began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Walking through the hallways of City Hall, Steve Gilman and Matthew Belmont hold on to each other tight knowing that many fought for what they decided to do Wednesday.

"I do," said Gilman and Belmont as they held each other's hands.

It was 20 years ago this week that then Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the city to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in what became known as "The Winter of Love."

On Wednesday, Mayor London Breed commemorated the historic move with many of the key players that led the battle for marriage equality.

VIDEO: Same-sex couple reflects on 20 years of marriage equality in San Francisco

One of the couples who took part on the historic day of first same-sex marriages in San Francisco reflects on the past 20 years.

"We are celebrating the advocacy of so many of those same-sex couples who showed up to San Francisco year after year asking for the right to do what anyone else deserves the right to do. That is to marry the person they love," said Mayor Breed.

Among them, then city attorney Dennis Herrera who took the case to the Supreme Court.

"This is a terrific reminder of the battle that we fought 20 years ago and to see so many couples here, opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples. It's what San Francisco is all about," said Herrera, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission general manager.

Sitting up front was John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney. One of the first couples to marry in San Francisco. They renewed their vows on Wednesday.

An inspiration to many like Steve and Matthew who've been together for 28 years and took this step.

"To be part of something that is so important and so meaningful not just for us but really for history," said Steve Gilman.

"We had two days to plan so we have rings. Something borrowed, something new and something blue. Oh my goodness," said Matthew Belmont.

MORE: This singles event lets friends use PowerPoint presentations to 'pitch' their single friends

That something borrowed are the rings given to them by Matthews parents.

"They were married 51 years. My mom came to visit us couple years ago and she said I want you guys to have these," said Belmont.

A full circle moment also for the one marrying them, Carmen Chu the current San Francisco City Administrator and a key player in the battle for same-sex marriage.

"I was the assessor recorder when same-sex marriages resumed in 2008. I think being able to continue to celebrate peoples loves. There couldn't be a bigger honor," said Chu.

A legacy carried on by the current City Assessor Joaquin Torres.

"It's an extraordinary day for us just to celebrate love in the city. When so many people in this country want to roll back our opportunity to choose who we love and who we can be with," said Torres.

VIDEO: Love story that transcends death: Bay Area man sends lifetime of flowers to his forever Valentine

Danville man sends lifetime of flowers to his wife every Valentine's Day, even after his death.

As to Steve and Matthew:

Luz Pena: "How does it feel to be married?"

Steve and Matthew: "We've been married since the day we met. We kind of have been, but now it's real. It was always real, but now it's official."

The marriage licenses issued during the "Winter of Love" were ultimately voided by the State Supreme Court, leading to many legal challenges.

Marriage for same-sex couples was eventually legalized in California in June of 2013 by the U.S Supreme Court.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live