My partner (well now my husband) and I were married on August 31, 2013 in Alamo Square in San Francisco. It was a small ceremony attended by my brother, his fiancé, and a few old friends, one of whom was also our officiant, and somewhat unexpectedly, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. John and I have been together for six years and actually exchanged rings privately more than five years ago. While we were on vacation earlier this summer we agreed that if the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional and if California’s Prop 8 was overturned, we would make the trip out to get married (we live in Texas and some things here never change). Within minutes of the DOMA decision my partner started texting possible wedding dates to me.
Now I’ll admit I’m a bit too committed to planning and had some trouble with the concept of a spontaneous trip to California and an ad-hoc wedding, but my husband is a school teacher and we had to get this done before his responsibilities to his fourth grade classes really kicked in. I hopped on the computer in early July and started trying to find plane tickets, a venue, find the rules for getting a license, locate a photographer, and dig up examples of non-religious wedding ceremonies. We knew we wanted to go to San Francisco and we thought we could make it by August 3. Then I discovered that we needed an appointment to get a license and that there weren’t any available appointments. So I started looking at other counties around the Bay Area (I lived there for many years so I know the lay of the land). We finally settled on flying to San Jose on a Thursday to ensure time to get a license from Santa Clara County before a proposed wedding on Saturday. I thought we were set to go, but then the first shoe fell. Our friend who had agreed to perform the ceremony called to say that he had to be in Perth for work. Suddenly we were back at square one. After some discussion we decided to push it a week later to August 10. But then we discovered my brother couldn’t be in town, our officiant would have just returned late on August 9 from Perth, and it seemed like the whole event was becoming too disjointed. Time was running out though because my partner had to report back to work on August 12.
This is where unexpected help came in in the form of John’s principal who agreed to allow him to take two personal days during the first week of classes to head out to California with me over Labor Day weekend. Suddenly everything was on and things started falling into place. The last key piece of our puzzle, a photographer, dropped into place through a Facebook contact to an old friend of mine from graduate school days (granted it dropped into place at 10PM the night before we were leaving for California, but it still worked out). We landed in San Jose on schedule on Thursday at 1130, got a rental car and in less than an hour from wheels down had our license in hand. Aside from a problem with our first hotel that nearly derailed everything—story for another time—everything went brilliantly. We spent a great evening in San Jose with my brother and his fiancé, stopped by my old stomping grounds from grad school at Stanford, and made it to San Francisco by midday on Friday. We splurged on a fantastic room at the Fairmont and thought we were just the best thing in the world. Then it happened, Ruth Bader Ginsburg stole our spotlight.
I say this somewhat tongue in cheek of course. The news came out late in the day on Friday that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was going to be the first Supreme Court Justice to perform a same-sex wedding that was scheduled in Washington on the same day we were getting married in San Francisco. We took that as a great sign. Now we could be part of history. Still a Supreme Court Justice certainly upstages a Geologist and School Teacher standing in park in San Francisco no matter how great the scenery.
There is a bigger message here though. I said throughout the planning process that this wedding felt like an elopement but way more of a pain in the neck. We couldn’t be spontaneous because we had to take time off from work to leave early to get a license and had to make careful choices about where to go and when and had to hope that everything fell into place in another state with little on the ground control. Luckily, I had some friends and my brother in the area all of whom offered great help and advice, but still it wasn’t an easy task. Turns out another Houstonian headed to San Diego this past weekend felt the same way and expressed it in almost the same terms, “it’s like an elopement only much harder.” I know it sounds like normal wedding headaches for which I should be grateful, but the reality was it could have been so much easier if we had just gotten married in Texas. Of course, then we wouldn’t have had an excuse to go to San Francisco.
Still, we’re married now and just two months ago we weren’t sure that we would ever bother. So the fact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was figuratively on our stage on Saturday wasn’t a problem for us at all. She was a big part of our wedding before it ever happened, and the fact that she was officiating the wedding of Michael M. Kaiser and John Roberts on Saturday just affirms for us that the Supreme Court really landed on the right side of history with its decision in the DOMA case—The Honorable Justice Scalia’s dissent notwithstanding. Someday perhaps the license we got in California will carry its due weight in Texas, but until then John and I are married because the Supreme Court says so, and Madam Justice Ginsburg just made it official. She’s welcome in our spotlight any time!