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    History Repeats Itself

    Skip and Ricardo at City Hall Holding an issue of the Bay Times from 1998. Photo by William Oakes and Richard Coddington.

     

    January 31, 1979, at the Nothing Special Bar on Castro. That was the day that I met William (Skip) Oakes. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that one day we would be married. We were thrilled to become domestic partners on March 21, 1991. But it wasn’t until March 29, 1996, when Willie L. Brown Jr. was mayor that we participated in the domestic partners ceremony and appeared on the cover of the October 1998 edition of the San Francisco Bay Times.

    As I think back on the occasion, I remember the number of people who filled the War Memorial Auditorium. We united to celebrate the recognition of gay and lesbian couples who declared their commitment to one another. It took the community to witness the occasion, not like our marriage on July 23, 2013, when our friends stood watching as we exchanged rings under the rotunda of City Hall.

    In 1996, couples stood in the lobby of the War Memorial waiting their turn to march down the aisle and receive their domestic partners certificate. When it was our turn to be presented the domestic partners certificate, it was a surreal feeling. William told me to “slow down” as I ran toward the stage. After we were presented the certificate, we were asked to say a few words.

    Given the excitement, all I could think of to say was that we voted for Willie Brown and the potholes had not yet been fixed. We then retreated to the Green Room to congratulate other couples and have refreshments. At the time, becoming domestic partners was a special and spectacular event. Skip and I decided to dress for the occasion, and that meant wearing suits and hats.

    To carry on the spirit of the domestic partners union, we again donned art deco, vintage hats for our marriage. Unlike the darkness of the War Memorial Auditorium in 1996, we were under the rotunda of the vast sunlit City Hall. We were no longer second-class citizens due to the striking down of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) on June 26, 2013, by the Supreme Court. As luck would have it, Skip’s sister and niece were visiting at the time of the landmark decision. They had just toured City Hall and were happy about our upcoming marriage.

    The domestic partners event in 1996 was made even more electric since the Defense of Marriage Act had gathered enough signatures to be placed on the State ballot in 1999. But that did not dampen the spirits of the participants. The seeds for equality were planted as couples talked of expanding their families by having or adopting a child.

    The civil ceremony for domestic partners remains one of the most profoundly memorable days of our lives, second only to our recent wedding.

    Barbara Lane and Dan Hampshire of San Francisco and Scott Sharp and his daughter Hannah of Carlsbad, California, attended the wedding. A reception was held in our home following the ceremony, which was filled with flowers from well-wishers.