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Today's Supreme Court Rulings: The View From City Hall
George McIntire | Photo: George McIntire | June 26, 2013
One reporter watches history unfold from 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place.
The city of San Francisco has been waiting for this moment for a long time. Today, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down both the federal Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8. Together, the two rulings will allow same-sex couples to get married in California and to receive federal benefits. By 6:50am this morning, City Hall's rotunda was packed with same-sex marriage supporters who came to witness this historic moment in the place that helped kick off the gay marriage movement almost ten years ago. Most in the crowd were glued with rapt attention to the television screens tuned into CNN.
And just before 8:00am, when it became obvious that the pro-equality side had prevailed, the crowd erupted in raucous applause.
At the top of the stairs gathered nearly every important figure in San Francisco government from the entire Board of Supervisors to police chief Greg Suhr to former mayors Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom. Mayor Ed Lee descended linking arms with Phyllis Lyon who in 2004 had the first gay marriage in California. Ed Lee kicked off a round speeches, in which he—joined by Gavin Newsom, President of the Board of Supervisors David Chiu, Supervisor Scott Weiner, Supervisor David Campos, City Attorney Dennis Herrera among others—gave his personal take on the significance of the historic moment. But the most memorable line of the day goes to Kate Kendall, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who shouted out from the base of the staircase, "Fuck you, Prop 8!" Kendall immediately apologized to the children in the audience and promised to "put a dollar in the bad word jar".
Meanwhile, many of the LGBT members in the crowd were overcome with relief and joy. Danielle Fernandez, who has been out for 17 years and came to City Hall this morning from Berkeley, expressed her excitement about what the decisions meant for both her professional and personal lives. "It's been a long time coming and since I'm a wedding photographer, I hope this means great things [for my career] as well." Barbara Brass, 60, and her wife, Pat Thompson, 79 (they got married in 2004 and have been together for 29 years) were overwhelmed with emotion. "It's just wow! That's it, it's incredible, we're thrilled, it's time, it's past time, we're amazed and thrilled" exclaimed Brass. Thompson added "We've worked so hard, today it all came together and we're thrilled!"
Zachary Fox, a business consultant who lives in the Castro with partner Daniel Tabib of four years, felt intensely nervous in the run-up to the court decision. "I'm pretty ecstatic, but I actually wasn't sure if DOMA was going to get knocked down. And I was nervous yesterday when [Tabib] woke me up at 7am to see if there was a ruling and then again this morning." As for the implications for their relationship, Fox and Tabib haven't made any plans as of yet. Fox said that he now had something new to be nervous about: that his partner would propose.