The 20th anniversary of the first same-sex marriages in California


It's Monday. The 20th anniversary of the first same-sex marriages in California. Additionally, the state's fast food workers have a new union.

20 years ago today, history was made at San Francisco City Hall.

Gavin Newsom, who had taken office as mayor of San Francisco the previous month, ordered the city clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the first in California. He said he believed denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry was a form of discrimination.

More than 4,000 gay couples married at San Francisco City Hall over the following month, in what supporters called the “Winter of Love.”

The weddings celebrated in that one-month period (February 12 to March 11, 2004) were annulled in August of that year by the California Supreme Court. But they set off a chain of events that ultimately led to same-sex marriage being legalized in California in 2013.

“I will always cherish that kind of collective euphoria that we felt that day, even though everyone there probably knew it might not last,” said Nicholas Parham, who married his longtime partner, James Martin, at City Hall on Feb. 13. from 2004. “We thought: let's have fun. Let's show the world what we want.”

As the story goes, in January 2004, Newsom attended President George W. Bush's State of the Union address at the invitation of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, an old family friend. Sitting in the Capitol, Newsom listened to the president speak against same-sex marriage.

A few months earlier they had been ruled legal in Massachusetts, but weddings had not yet begun there. And Vermont was the only state at the time that allowed civil unions. Newsom, who had been mayor of San Francisco for only 12 days at the time of the speech, decided that he wanted to take a stand. He said he felt a moral obligation to open the doors to same-sex marriage.

Unlike many other big-city mayors, Newsom had the power to open those doors: In California, marriage licenses are the purview of the county government, and San Francisco is both a city and a county, with a single government. combined.

“He's the president of the United States and I'm just a guy who stops the signs and tries to revitalize the parks,” Newsom told the Times in 2004. “I know my role. But I also know that I have an obligation that I took seriously to defend the Constitution. “There is simply no provision that allows me to discriminate.”

Their decision sparked a frenzy in San Francisco, where people lined up for days to get married.

The morning after Newsom took action, Parham asked Martin over the breakfast table if he wanted to get married. Martin was taken by surprise: he had just returned from a business trip and had not been aware of the news.

The two men had been together since 1981, when they met in a North Carolina newsroom where Martin worked as a reporter. Both men described it as “love at first sight.”

Before that morning, marriage had sounded good, but it was “like saying, 'Wouldn't it be nice to go skating on the moon?'” said Martin, now 65. But then Parham explained what had been happening. in the city Hall.

“As soon as he said that, I knew what my answer was going to be,” said Martin, who lives with Parham, now 73, in Noe Valley.

Staying married in the eyes of the law was more difficult than simply reciting their vows that day.

Their marriage was annulled, as were all others since that initial month in 2004, when the California Supreme Court ruled that Newsom had exceeded his authority under state law in issuing the licenses.

Martin and Parham remarried at San Francisco City Hall in the summer of 2008, after the court ruled that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry.

About 17,000 same-sex couples married that year between June and November, before California voters approved Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. This time, Martin and Parham's license and the others issued up to that point were still valid, but no more could be issued.

In 2013, Proposition 8 was struck down in court and gay marriage was legalized in California; It has remained that way ever since.

Public opinion on gay marriage has changed considerably since 2004. The Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide in 2015, and today 71 percent of Americans think same-sex marriage should be legal , up from 42 percent in 2004, according to Gallup. The numbers are about the same for Californians: 40 percent thought the same in 2004 and 75 percent think so now, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

“During the historic 'Winter of Love' in San Francisco, people of all backgrounds came together to defend human dignity,” Newsom, who is now governor of California, said in a statement. “In those few weeks we learned to listen to the people, not the experts; focus on justice, not tradition; and err on the side of inclusion.” He added: “The actions taken by countless people garnered overwhelming support for the equality and protections everyone deserves.”

Parham and Martin have three anniversaries, they told me. One is for the summer they fell in love in 1981. One is for their first wedding, February 13, 2004. And the third is for the June 2008 date on their second officially valid marriage license.

“Celebrate them all, why not?” Parham said.

For more:

Los Angeles has no shortage of grand, impressive trees. The city's landscape, from the green hillside to the winding canyon, is dotted with various plants, such as coral trees, myrtle trees, and, of course, the tree that has come to symbolize Los Angeles: the palm tree.

Ryan Bradley of the Los Angeles Times, who says he is a recent convert to the cult of “treeheads,” as he calls them, set out to find and catalog the largest trees in Los Angeles. His criteria were simple: the trees he chose. They had to be accessible to the public and free to visit, and they had to tell a story about the city. With a photographer, Bradley visited groves throughout the city, including the Orcutt Ranch in West Hills, where he found a coast oak that may be the oldest tree in Los Angeles.

The result is a map of 10 trees that Bradley found especially significant, either because of their age or the role they played in the city's history and development. He also wrote an account of the reporting of him along the way.

“Trees are like that, they exist on a very different time scale than ours; “They connect us to a distant past and at the same time bear witness to a future we will never live to see,” Bradley wrote. He added: “I've realized that what I think makes a tree great is not necessarily its size or its age, but its ability to continue living.”

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