SAN FRANCISCO – Couples will gather today at San Francisco City Hall to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the same-gender marriages performed there 10 years ago.
Newly elected Mayor Gavin Newsom shocked the nation a decade ago with his daring decision to let gay and lesbian couples marry, and almost 4,000 couples flocked to the city by the bay to wed. But four months later, the U.S. Supreme Court annulled those marriages, but the decision triggered a national movement in support of marriage equality.
Today, 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage, and a number of other states are being sued for wedding rights. Public opinion has shifted dramatically in favor of the freedom to marry, and the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama have enthusiastically embraced marriage equality.
“February 12 is our 10-year wedding anniversary, and the end of Proposition 8 was perfect anniversary gift,” said Stuart Gaffney, Marriage Equality USA communications director who has been together with his husband John Lewis for 27 years. “Finally being able to say ‘I Do’ was the happiest day of our lives together.”
Today is also Freedom to Marry Day nationwide, held just ahead of Valentine’s Day as a way for couples to celebrate love, romance and marriage.
Friends, allies and supporters of marriage equality will rally at events designed to shine the spotlight on the harm done to loving gay and lesbian couples who are denied the right to wed in states that allow discrimination.
In states that still do not have the freedom to marry, gay and lesbian couples will ask for marriage licenses. In states that do now have marriage equality, people will go to their local Clerk-Recorders to thank them for their work and support and to congratulate the couples obtaining marriage licenses that day.
This is the 16th year in a row that marriage equality supporters have appeared at clerks’ offices across the country on Valentine’s Day. These annual actions, started by Marriage Equality USA in the mid-1990s, will be taking place this year in California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and other locales. Information about these events and a list of actions can be found at www.LicenseOurLove.org.
"These annual events serve as a powerful and visual reminder of the decades-long movement for committed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples across this country to simply be able to marry the person they love,” said Brian Silva, executive director of Marriage Equality USA.
In Utah, local organizers, Colleen and Jolene Mewing are in the midst of experiencing the highs and lows of the marriage equality movement.
“We hope there is a huge turnout for this year’s Valentine’s Day action,” Mewing said. “The case in Utah could set the precedent for other states that currently have an amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman.” Jolene added, "I believe the more people who participate this year, and the more visible we are, the better chance we have of obtaining marriage equality for all."
In Pennsylvania, couples across the state are inspired by Philadelphia’s history as a city of liberty and freedom.
“Loving, committed couples want to show their dedication to each other and should be rewarded and welcomed by their city. It is time for Philadelphia to live up to her name and open her arms to all of her citizens. After all, she is a city of LOVE,” said Thomas Hall, regional organizer with Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania.