SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Wednesday marks 10 years since the first same-sex marriages took place in San Francisco City Hall. One of the first couples who got married, along with then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, look back on the decade since the “Winter of Love.”
Julie Baird and Laurie Simonson were one of the first couples to break the ice.
As they reflect over the last 10 years, they remember how exciting it was, and realize how momentous it would become for same-sex couples.
“People would just stop us in restaurants and stuff and say, ‘We saw you on the news last night,’” Simonson said.
“The weight of that day and the effect of those weddings over the next decade was incredibly impactful on the marriage movement,” Baird said.
On February 12, 2004, Newsom, who is now Lieutenant Governor, declared same-sex couples would be able to get married at San Francisco City Hall. And thousands came.
Newsom told KPIX 5, “4,036 couples from 46 states and six or eight nations, and they were happy to wait 12 hours to go inside City Hall.”
Behind the vows, behind the scenes, it was tense. More tense than we knew at the time. Newsom said there were death threats not just against him, but on the couples themselves.
“It was never discussed, and we never brought it up. But there was a reason, remember, we didn’t have the lines the last 10 days or so of that month, February, because we had so many threats about people’s safety in the lines,” Newsom recalled.
When asked what the threats were, Newsom said, “Well, the threats were literally, that people were going to come by. There were groups all over the country saying they were going to act out.”
There were more hurdles, more victories, and then more court battles. It took almost the entire decade before last June, the Supreme Court decided in California’s favor. Same-sex marriage is now the law of the state. But it all started with the Winter of Love.
“When that happened, all of a sudden, there were thousands and thousands of private conversations. And those conversations were won and lost. But at the end of the day, we won more than we lost,” Newsom said.
On Wednesday night, a group of city leaders will gather at City Hall to mark the occasion.