As I read about the ongoing efforts of Proposition 8 opponents here in California this week, I am reminded of Helen Haug and Pamela Calvert who came in to the San Francisco StoryBooth to record their story of getting married to each other five times now and counting.
Their first wedding was a traditional Quaker marriage in New York, in all but the name since at that time their Quaker Meeting was not recognizing same sex unions as “marriages.” Their next four attempts to get their relationship recognized have happened here in the state of California.
They described one Friday the 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day in 2004, when they joined hundreds of other same sex couples lined up around the block at City Hall in San Francisco to have their marriages recognized by the city. They were “dressed for jail, just in case,” since they weren’t sure what would happen that day.
It felt like a crack had opened in the Berlin Wall and hundreds of people were lining up to climb through to the other side before the crack closed again, because nobody knew how long this would last or whether it would ever stand.
Do you remember the straight couple that was in line?
Yeah, those poor folks, they just decided they would get married that day and thought they’d go down to city hall and there they were in the middle of the line – this pilgrimage it almost felt like to me â and we kept telling them ‘you can go ahead, you can go ahead, you know we’ve been waiting for a long time, we can wait for a little bit longer’ and they wouldn’t, they said ‘we can wait, we can wait with you.’
They remembered the clerk at city hall who was working after hours that day, unpaid, and the retired judge who came in to volunteer his services. The everyday people who were stepping up to honor the struggle these couples have gone through for recognition.
And then six months â six months minus one day – later, the court ruled that the marriages were nullified. We weren’t surprised but it was still hard. Our Meeting in Berkeley had had a reception for all of the gay couples in the Meeting who had gotten married; but when they were nullified nobody said anything.
In June of this year, on Pamela’s birthday, they got married for the fifth time, this time a little more relaxed, not dressed for jail. And that marriage was legal until Proposition 8 passed in November.
So we don’t know yet what’s going to happen with this marriage.
Yeah, we’re kind of in limbo.
I’d kind of like to quit getting married and just be married.
Yeah, but I don’t think anyone on the front lines of a war, even a culture war, chooses to be there, you just are.
Helen closed their interview reading something she wrote when they heard that Proposition 8 had passed this year:
We cannot lose. Commitment, responsibility, and faithfulness are good for a society. It is in a society’s best interest to recognize and encourage these virtues. But even if a society decides not to recognize or encourage them they cannot be taken away from me and my beloved. Commitment, responsibility, and faithfulness belong to us, whether a society’s ready to recognize it or not.
And that’s our truth.
We’re going to be married regardless.
God brought us together, let no man take us apart.