KCBS Cover Story: Two Different Paths For Two Bay Area Same-Sex Couples
SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – It was ten years ago on Wednesday that then San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom opened the door for same-sex couples to get married, with the first ceremonies taking place at City Hall.
Stuart Gaffney and his partner John Lewis had been together for 17 years, before they were married at San Francisco City Hall on February 12, 2004. “Utterly committed to each other, living as married, but we never said I do,” Gaffney said.
They went on to be plaintiffs in the 2008 challenge to the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, and along the way, became the poster couple for the cause, as a picture of them in their matching tuxedos is in a Washington, D.C. museum.
“John and I have been able to grow and change through the movement for marriage equality,” said Gaffney. “We’ve put on rallies, put out press releases, we’ve seen our marriage put up for a popular vote. That’s really for better or for worse.”
And now, same-sex marriage is recognized in 17 states and the District of Columbia. “When the Democrats lost at the ballot box that November, Dianne Feinstein famously said it had been too much, too fast, too soon,” Gaffney said. “I say that today because that’s a marker of how far we’ve come.”
While Gaffney and Lewis have been at the forefront of the movement to legalize same-sex marriage in the state of California, and across the country, other Bay Area couples, like Denise Donovan and Julie Johnson, have preferred their domestic bliss with a little less spotlight.
The couple was married on February 13, 2004, after having two children together. “They always thought we were married. They didn’t understand, but now, they understand and have an appreciation for it,” Donovan said.
“We’re strangely conventional, really,” Johnson added. “Gosh, everyday, we’re not out there trying to make political statements or anything.”
They note it’s how they live that changes minds. “The last ten years has really been taken up with raising children. So we’re present in our kid’s lives, which means we’re present at school, we meet their friend’s parents, and we are different from most people,” Donovan said.
So after ten years of marriage, they look to the future, with questions familiar to all of us.
“Both of the kids will be going to college. We’ll be nearing retirement. And so then, we get all sorts of new choices,” Johnson said.
The first marriages ten years ago have sparked years of debate, both in the public eye and in courts across the country. Events commemorating the historic day are scheduled for Wednesday in San Francisco.