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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 jserinus@planeteria.net

"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 place.

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
510-444-4169
jserinus@planeteria.net

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.

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