Couple: Russell M. & Robert O.
Married At: San Francisco, CA
Date Married: February 20th, 2004
Where They Live: California
Our Wedding Story:
We knew from the very first day we met that we were meant to be a couple and would always be together till death do us part. We knew Marriage would be an option for us sometime in our future we just did not know when. We met over 24 years ago and it was like we were created to love each other. Together, we have been at each others side, ever since. An entire lifetime has passed, it seems, since that day in 1980.
Christmas 2003 was approaching and Robert had made secret plans to exchange rings, again, and have another personal ceremony of our own, again. He ended up not exchanging rings Christmas morning. Robert had altered his plans slightly. Instead, on Christmas morning 2003 Russell opened the tiniest of boxes revealing a single wedding band with the date of our first meeting inscribed on the inside; "December 11, 1980." Robert took the ring from Russ and on that Christmas morning, on bended knee placed the ring on his finger and asked Russell if he would Marry him. Russ' one word reply was "yes."
Fast forward a month or so as we heard that same-sex pairs of brides and grooms had been arriving in San Francisco since officials at City Hall began issuing licenses of Marriage to gays and lesbians on Feb 12.
Wow...was our reaction the next few days as we watched and discussed what, if anything, we would do!
We were not so much interested in making history as a gay couple in our far away neighborhood of Mokelumne Hill, Ca., but we wanted to support the couples who had the courage to make history themselves. We discussed it back and forth for seven days and seven nights...we looked at it from every angle and we finally came to the conclusion that this was for us. This was something we have both dreamed about for almost 25 years and we decided then that on the following morning we would drive the 150 miles to S.F. and get Married...with a capital "M."
On February 19, 2004 we woke up at 3 AM much more animated than any other morning we had ever experienced in our lives. We put on our simple everyday clothes and drank our coffee on that cold and rainy morning. We got into the car at 4:30 AM and started off to S.F. City Hall arriving at 7:00 AM. to get in line. Just like the view from home on the television, the line was snaking from the front of City Hall and down around the corner! It was a wet and miserable morning weather-wise, but the couples that stood in line for an opportunity of a lifetime looked pleased. As the day progressed, we were surprised when some friends of ours arrived with 2 yellow T-shirts proclaiming "Feb 19, 2004 JUST MARRIED."
We waited and watched throughout the day as the line barely budged over the period of 8 hours. Every so often the crowd would roar when the doors of City Hall opened and a happy couple emerged holding hands and a certificate of Marriage high above they're heads.
We waited all d! ay, the line hadn't moved more than a foot or 2 the entire day and at 4 PM someone came out and was talking to the couples at the front of the line, so we decided to get up closer so we could hear what was being said.
We approached and stood right next to the official and he started speaking, "It looks like not that many more ceremonies will take place today, but" at this point he outstretched his arms around Russ and I on the left and engulfed a number who were standing on his right " whoever is right here, please enter the building and you will be married today." We tapped him on the shoulder, and said "You mean us." and he said, " If you are right here, yes." We looked at each other and thought to ourselves (out loud), "Wow if we stayed in the back and did not come forward to hear what he was saying...we would still be back there!"
So we entered the building and formed a new line in front of some windows, again we were near the back of the line. Then it happened. There was a commotion and it was getting louder and louder and louder! Finally, there was screaming and pointing and some real anger happening all around us...then it became very very apparent...they were all yelling at us..."Line jumper," "Cheater" and other choice words which won't be repeated. The official who spoke came over and separated us out of the line and questioned us. We were quite honest about the whole thing and then he told us we would not be married with the rest in that room at that time.
Well before we left for the long drive back home, we called a friend of ours to tell the story of what happened. Our friend said he knew someone in City Hall and to stay where we were until he talked with him. So a few seconds later the same official answers his cel phone and then a minute later starts surveying the room with his eyes and boom, his eyes catch our eyes and he is off the phone and next to us in no time flat. He says to us Do you know Richard C.?" and we tell him " Sure we do, for the past 30 years!"
"Well," he says and continues " we still can't perform your marriage ceremony today, but if you can show up tomorrow morning at 6AM at the back door of City Hall you will be the first one's to be married...tommorow."
So after driving 2 1/2 hours and standing in line for 9 hours we turned around and drove the 2 1/2 hours back home...exhausted!
The following morning we woke up at 2 AM were in the car by 3 AM and at the back door of City Hall at 5:30 AM. Nobody else was there and so we waited, patiently. At a little before 6 AM people started to arrive at this 'back door' flashed ID at a guard and dissappeared inside. At precisely 6 AM the Official who spoke to us on the previous day arrived, welcomed us, fashed his ID at the guard and ushered us into City Hall. We filled out the paperwork and handed it to the official.
He told us that we would be Married under the Rotunda, but we had to wait until another ceremony concluded. Carole Migden was preparing to marry Cristina Arguedas right then. When it was time we were swept up the grand staircase under the Rotunda for our own wedding. Right then Russ says, " what about your ring Robert, what are we going to do?" Robert pulled out the tiniest of boxes, the one he did not place under the tree the previous Christmas, and produced an identical ring with the identical inscription inside "December 11, 1980." Moments later we were Married as our witness Richard C. stood next to us during the most thrilling event of our lives. It meant the world to us then and it still does now.
Together for 24 years, we didn't feel like we 'rushed' into Marraige, rather than Marriage was 'rushed' upon us. We just did what many loving couples have done in the past, we documented our love and commitment to each other in the presence of witnesses. We will renew our wedding vows every year that it is allowed, OR we will continue getting Married in California. It is our right to be joined in Marriage and we will continue to marry each other until it IS right for ALL of us.
....we didn't make history at all. What we did together simply made sense..