San Francisco hosts gay 'marriage'
March 26, 1996
Web posted at: 1:00 a.m. EST
From Correspondent Greg Lefevre
SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- Peter Hirsch and John Caravantes got married Monday -- an event that no state recognizes, but the city of San Francisco, ever rebellious, performed anyway.
Fulfilling a campaign promise, Mayor Willie Brown deputized himself and presided over the ceremony for about 150 couples.
"As usual we are first," Brown told them, "and by virtue of your participating in this ceremony you are part of history." (77K AIFF sound or 77K WAV sound)
Monday's marriages have in fact no legal status. They are instead a statement to those who would deny legal status to gay marriages. And those forces are growing.
Ever since the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in favor of three gay couples who want to get married, 26 states have rushed to consider laws banning same-sex marriage. The legislatures in those states fear that if Hawaii eventually approves, other states my have to honor gay marriages performed in Hawaii.
But despite the successes in state legislatures, bills banning the marriages haven't always made it past dissenting governors.
"We cannot prohibit or ban these relationships, and we shouldn't use our law to attempt to do so," said Colorado Gov. Roy Romer on Monday as he vetoed a bill from the Colorado legislature.
"It is one thing to believe, as I do, that marriage is the union of a man and woman," Romer said. "It is quite another to believe that committed same-sex relationships do not exist and should not be recognized by society."
Lesbians and gay men could not agree more. In San Francisco, Maxine Stafford and her partner took part in Monday's wedding to protest attempts by state legislatures to invalidate lesbian and gay relationship.
"Or worse than that," said Stafford, who has been with her partner for 12 years, "to tell us that our relationship is dangerous to society." (153K AIFF sound or 153K WAV sound)
For many who have seen the AIDS epidemic ravage the gay population, the phrase "in sickness and in health" gains added meaning.
"It's not easy to turn your TV on when you've just buried a friend or you've stood by someone for years and then you're told that you have no values," said Randy Wendelin. (94K AIFF sound or 94K WAV sound)
Some lesbian couples brought their children, their families.
"It feels terrific and we have a relationship that should be recognized," said Diane Jester.
Most of the couples recognize the long legal road ahead.
Carole Midgen, an openly gay city supervisor, said that the fight to recognize gay unions was "paving the way for tangible benefits in the future," including immigration rights, child custody rights and tax benefits.
Given the resistance among the various state's legislators, any change will come slowly if at all. But on Monday, about 300 happy honeymooners did not seem to care.
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