The first anniversary of the momentous introduction of marriage equality across the United States on 26 June 2015, approaches. This might be an opportune moment to share a bit more of my personal story (with my wife’s permission).
Nine days ago we celebrated the first anniversary of our wedding on 14 June 2015. My wife is Australian and I, as readers here already know, am British. We could have married in the UK, but for us, this was a great deal more than just our love and our marriage. I’d wanted to get married in California as a mark of acknowledgement of that state’s brave role in the long struggle for gay rights and marriage equality. Apart from that, my vanity demanded a Marriage Certificate that said, “State of California” in big letters across the top. Both of us have always been especially fond of San Francisco, although up till then, we’d never been there together, and as it turned out, she wanted a Marriage Certificate that said, “City of San Francisco” on it. How convenient for both of us.
It was the 14 June 2014 when we got together (at the Shanghai Pride Opening Party, no less), and June 2013 when we first met (at the Shanghai Pride Closing Party). It took exactly five days together for us to be sure that we were right for each other. Far be it from us to introduce discord into the music of the spheres. So naturally, our wedding was going to be on 14 June in San Francisco. We also knew that the US Supreme Court would rule around that time, expecting either the 25th or the 29th. We were hoping for the 25th, a Thursday, as San Francisco Pride would be the 27th-28th. What an absolutely mind-blowing Pride that would be, and we wanted to be part of it.
Our wedding was small — sixteen guests — and held in the Sausalito Women’s Club on 14 June 2015, as we had planned, and officiated by my dear friend (we have known each other since doing our PhDs together in the UK in the early 90s). We had written our own vows and I went first, reading mine to her. She read hers to me, which was truly moving, but then she totally broadsided me by singing the rest! I could feel it welling up. I fought it. My lower lip trembled. I fought it hard. I couldn’t breathe properly. I was determin—and whoosh! the floodgates were open. Some of my dignity was salvaged by the waterproof mascara, and I settled for that. Only afterwards did I realise that everyone had been crying! It was such an amazing wedding and everyone was so much part of it. We couldn’t have wished for better. By the end of the day, we had our Marriage Certificate that says, “State of California” across the top, and “City and County of San Francisco” beneath that.
Only right at the end of our wedding, when our friend made a speech and referred to how momentous this modest event was, that we thought again of marriage equality. It had been largely absent from our thoughts up till then, even when the officiant said, “I now declare you wife and wife.” The entire ceremony was just about our love, and our friends sharing that moment in its journey. This is despite my having followed developments on the marriage equality front in obsessive detail for two years solid. So much so that I had predicted the ruling that did, indeed, come to pass (although I’d predicted a 7:2 split — it was 5:4, and it came on the 26th, not the 25th). Early on the morning of the 26th, we turned on the television in our hotel room to see President Obama saying some pretty amazing things and the camera cutting away to crowds awash with emotion and scenes awash with rainbow colours. My God, we hugged each other so hard and screamed so loudly we almost injured ourselves a mere twelve days into our brand new marriage. Our emotions went way beyond euphoric. This was off the scales.
And then San Francisco Pride just exploded. We had never been to a SF Pride before and had both promised ourselves to attend one one day. And what a Pride the one should turn out to be! Yes, we do indeed have much to be proud of, not least the anniversary that we will celebrate in three days’ time. For this post, I want to focus only on these positive, uplifting and energising experiences.
With love to you all.
Update: My wife has just asked me to specifically point out that we couldn’t get married in Australia. She wants this mentioned because she often finds people asking her why we didn’t get married in her home country. People who do not keep up with such news are generally surprised to learn that in Australia, gay people cannot marry whom they love, a notion that jars with their image of that country and the values they expect that society to hold.