One of the reasons I’ve been excited about the politics of gay marriage in the United States in recent months has been the fact that it has been the parts of the country I know and love best making the progressive running. Last year it was the court in Massachusetts — where I lived for most of the period 1995-2000 — that ordered the state legislature to draw up proposals to legalise gay and lesbian marriage; last weekend it was the Mayor of San Francisco — where I lived for much of 1999 — who ordered officials in City Hall to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
And there’s an additional reason for me to feel thrilled at what’s been happening in San Fransciso, which these two photos will serve to illustrate…
That photo was taken on 19 March 2001, and is of marriage commissioner Richard Ow officiating at my wedding to Josephine at the top of the grand staircase in San Francisco City Hall.
And this photo, left, is of the same person, Richard Ow, in the same place in City Hall, again, at the top of the steps, this time officiating at a same-sex marriage ceremony on Friday, a day that made the best kind of history that there is to make. (I found it on this page.)
Last week-end’s events have provided the faces and names and photographs to make the hitherto abstract and hypothetical concept of state-sanctioned same-sex marriage in America concrete and real for the watching world. And for me those photographs are marvellously accompanied by my own happy memories of City Hall as a terrific place to get married, and the wonderfully moving email messages I’ve read by people I know in San Francisco, who grabbed their once-in-a-lifetime chance to get their love for a partner officially recognised by the City — and a City they love, too.
And to get a sense of how busy that staircase in the top image was over the weekend, here’s a usefully-labelled snap by local photographer Zak Szymanski…
Below is another pic by Zak Szymanski of some splendid shoes — there are lots more at his authenti-city site, and it’s an excellent visual documentary record of three extraordinary days.