Red Letter Day

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The day that was

This was an amazing day, and it is hard to put into words. It started early; we got up at about 6:00 and were out of the hotel by 6:45...we decided to walk the half-mile to City Hall to work off some of the nervous energy. When we got there, the crowd was fairly small, but rapidly grew as massive swarms of media, well-wishers (including the San Francisco Men's Chorus) and of course other couples gathered on the steps. Notably, there was also the signs of at least one healthy segment of the economy -- the wedding business, as various photographers, caterers and other members of the wedding-industrial complex plied their wares.

I took a few pictures of the area, including San Francisco's absolutely beautiful classical City Hall building, when we took out the Kansas flag, to get a picture of ourselves with it...this ended up being the equivalent of throwing a bucked of chum into a shark tank, as a swarm of photographers from various services joined in taking pictures. Our cousin Lisa showed up...she is a second cousin who works in Oakland, and we were honored to see her and ask her to be the actual witness for our license. At this point, the ABC folks re-wired us, and we spent about half an hour being interviewed by various organizations (NPR, local SF news, etc).

Finally, at 8:00 AM, the doors to City Hall were unlocked and a semi-organized line formed. Once inside City Hall, everyone had to pass through a meta detector. This were somewhat disorganized felling at first, but it turned out that the county has basically set up a pretty streamlined process, helped along by dozens of volunteers, who were helping with marriages while still doing their ordinary duties. The woman who helped us actually fill out our license, as well as the gentleman who actually officiated at the ceremony were both employees of the county health department for was very touching how these civil servants were volunteering to do this!

The whole process kind of felt like a kind of dream, like we were on a ride where you just kind of keep moving along. After swearing that our information was true, we sat with the gentleman who would do our ceremony (as aforementioned) who led us upstairs to an alcove to the side of the huge rotunda.

The actual ceremony only took about 5 minutes, but they were the among most moving 5 minutes of my life. He spoke a few paragraphs of text about the meaning of marriage, about the journey through life with one's partner and the tenderness of affection. After a bit, both Dave and I were welling was the officiant, and even the ABC news producer. Finally came the traditional "do you take this have and hold, in sickness and health...for as long as you shall live?" I was near crying by now, but I said "I do" loud and clear, as did Dave when it was his turn. Then came a brief ring ceremony, which was kind of anticlimactic, since we had our rings from 9 years ago. Still, Dave switched his ring from right to left, for the first time (I've always worn it on the left). Then, the words were said: "By the power vested in me by the State of California, I now pronounce you spouses for life."

We were married under the law. Dave and I hugged, and whispered the Jewish prayer of thanksgiving. After which, wet-eyed, everyone congratulated us, and it was done. Dave and I were married.

After saying goodbyes to the deputy marriage commissioner, we went back downstairs, where we went to one office to pay $13 for a notarized copy of our license. Then we went to a second line to actually get the certificate, which was enclosed in a nice blue folder. A few pictures were snapped, and then we walked out of the City Hall, holding up the license to cheers from the crowd outside (this happened for all the couples).

We were pretty exhausted at this point -- we said a few final words to ABC, then said goodbye to the crew. Then goodbye to cousin Lisa as well, who we'll see in New York in a few months. Dave and I spent the next hour or so soaking up the atmosphere outside. We talked to a few other reporters, hung out with a group from the local gay-affirming synagogue, and finally, drifted away, down the steps, across the street, and into the city.

It was an amazing day. This blog post doesn't nearly do it justice -- there's really no way to put down on words what it was like. A memory to last a lifetime. I have never seen more positive energy, more love, more excitement in one place in my life. It was collective joy, and individual joy. But most of all it was about me and Dave.



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