Oh Happy Day!
San Francisco's Weddings included our own
Jason Victor Serinus & David Bellecci on February 13,2004
REPORT FROM THE SAN FRANCISCO MARRIAGE FRONT
Jason Victor Bellecci-Serinus
For reprint details and cost, contact Jason Bellecci-Serinus directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
"Gay Love is Gay Strength." We stenciled these words on T-shirts and chanted them
at rallies in the early days of the Gay Liberation Front. Love, the love that dare
speak its name and shout its truth in proud and angry defiance, was the overriding
force I felt at those pioneering lesbian/gay marches and actions. And 34 years
later, on Friday the 13th, 2004, I felt it just as strongly as I entered San
Francisco City Hall to marry the man I love.
On the day David and I became the Bellicci-Serinus family, the usual divisions of
class, sex, sexual orientation, and race seemed to vanish. Blacks, browns, whites,
Asians, and people of all sexual persuasions and spiritual traditions volunteered
to help same-sex couples unite. Lesbians and gay men hugged each other as straight
people handed them forms and flowers. There was only one language spoken besides
sign here, pay there, and "Do you promise?" It was a language of oneness, the
expression of a long-held vision fulfilled. It was a language of love.
There are only two other times in my long history with gay liberation (which began
when I founded the New Haven GLF in the spring of 1970) that I have felt such
incredible unanimity of spirit. One was at a 1970 summer evening's gay dance in New
York City's Alternate U. Within minutes of entering the packed space, this middle
class white Jewish boy, now living in the 17th St. gay collective, had joined an
exuberant multi-racial kick line of street walking transvestites. All divisions
seemed to vanish as we threw up our heels, singing and shouting our new anthem:
Aretha's "Respect." The other was at the first Lesbian/Gay March on Washington,
D.C. when hundreds of thousands of dykes and fags locked arms and swayed side to
side as Holly Near led us in choruses of "We Are a Gentle, Loving People."
President's Day weekend was extraordinary. Starting February 12th, when
pre-Stonewall Daughters of Bilitis founders Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon became the
first to wed thousands of same-sex couples descended upon San Francisco City Hall.
The building's entire staff mobilized to unite as many people as possible. By
Sunday, 1600 couples had received marriage certificates. And on Monday February 16,
a holiday on which City Hall was normally closed, doors opened an hour earlier than
planned to admit the first group of rain-drenched marriage applicants. The
volunteer staff processed an unprecedented 740 couples in seven and a half hours,
100 more than County Assessor Mabel Teng had deemed possible! Not everyone who
lined up outside City Hall made it in, but those who had spent the night in the
rain or awoke at the crack of dawn to hightail it downtown had the opportunity to
say "I Do." Even gay Supervisor Tom Ammiano and gay Assemblyman Mark Leno were on
hand to serve as witnesses.
David and I discussed getting married on Thursday, shortly after word of San
Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's defiance of California's prohibition of same-sex
marriage broke on international news. By Friday AM we were ready. First, we joined
Baci Brown of canine renown for our regular run in Oakland's Redwoods. Then, when
we heard that the line for marriage certificates was already 2 hours long, we
skipped shaving and breakfast and foreswore clean clothes to drive to San Francisco
as fast as we could, naively thinking we could return in time for work.
As we passed through City Hall's metal detectors, everyone was smiling, from
uniformed guards to county clerks. The atmosphere was warm and trusting; the long
wait in line only deepened the bonds. Women I had never met before let me use their
cell phone to call our dear friend Béla Nuss, who left work to witness our wedding.
Sometime before our ceremony, I stopped by Supervisor Tom Ammiano's office to
discover the door unlocked and no one inside. Staring at posters of former gay
Supervisor Harvey Milk, I wondered if I was standing in the very chambers where Dan
White had assassinated him. Finally, an aide entered. "Was the door unlocked," she
asked? "My co-worker should have locked it." But instead of showing fear, she
greeted me with a smile.
Minutes later, I ran into Will Roscoe, author of The Zuni Man-Woman and editor of
Harry Hay's Radically Gay: Gay Liberation in the Words of Its Founder. I told Will
how I wished that Harry were still alive so that he and John Burnside could have
considered being married alongside Phyllis and Del.
Will responded with tears in his eyes, "I wish my beloved Bradley was still with us
as well so we too could marry." As the two of us hugged, I realized that the reason
I knew so few people in line was that so many of my generation had joined Bradley
in death from AIDS.
We were cheered as we headed to the "altar," the long steps leading up City Hall's
gleaming rotunda. The man who conducted our ceremony, otherwise the Mayor's
Community Liaison, was a confirmed heterosexual, born in the Castro, who had been
deputized especially for the occasion. We laughed as my attempt to recycle Jewish
tradition by smashing a plastic Calistoga bottle failed; it took my Catholic
husband and removal of the top to achieve the big pop. It felt like one huge family
had reunited after a long enforced separation.
The atmosphere had changed a bit on Monday afternoon when this newlywed returned to
help marry others. Processes were far more organized, and some burned out
volunteers and Sheriff's deputies were in super-control mode. The last couples to
take their vows had to accept that, with so many people mobbing the building,
mothers, sisters and friends who had waited outside hoping to witness their unions
could not get in. I soothed a number of temporarily broken-hearted spouses-to-be,
helping them reconnect with the love that had brought them there in the first
What does it all mean? I can only speak for myself. When I looked in my beloved's
eyes and swore that I would remain faithful to him for the rest of my life, I felt
an incredible spiritual affirmation. In that moment, I knew that if anything I had
ever done or said in this lifetime held truth for me, this was it.
Jason Victor Bellecci-Serinus
PO Box 3073
Oakland, CA 94609-0073
Jason writes about classical, New Age, world, and gay angle music as well as
reviewing audiophile equipment for publications throughout the United States. These
include/have included Opera News, andante.com, Bay Area Reporter, Gay City News,
East Bay Express, Spirit of Change, Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, Secrets of
Home Theater and High Fidelity, On Sound and Music, Stereo Times, Preview
Connecticut, Houston Grand Opera, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Chronicle,
San Francisco Examiner, Advocate, Bay Windows, Update San Diego, Albuquerque Alibi,
Baltimore Gay Paper, Hartford Advocate, Southern Voice, Washington Blade, Lavender
Magazine, Gay Peoples Chronicle, Between the Lines, Q-Notes, Dallas Voice, Colorado
Springs Independent, Seattle Weekly, Chicago Free Press, Windy City Times, and The
Gay Outlook. He is a member of the Music Critics Association of North America and
the International Association of Whistlers.