Most Important Dates

#10

Feb. 12, 2004: First Licensed Gay Marriage in America

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Getting married on Valentine’s Day 2004

Getting married on Valentine’s Day 2004

In January 2004, I attended George W. Bush’s State of the Union address. He ended it with a call for the Defense of Marriage Act. I remember listening to the chatter afterward, people talking about how glad they were that someone was finally doing something about the homosexuals. It was like I was living in a parallel universe. I immediately called my chief of staff and said I want to put a human face on this. I sat down with leaders from San Francisco’s LGBT community and we talked about the idea of having a ceremony. We decided on the second week of February, right around Valentine’s Day. In a matter of days, we went from a few dozen couples getting married, to thousands of people descending on city hall. Lines were around the block. We had people from 46 states and eight countries. By the end of the month we’d married 4,036 couples. We unleashed this remarkable energy that spread around the world. You had the king of Cambodia watching CNN, and the next day he decided to change the law. You had Spain, a Roman Catholic country, change its laws. But there was certainly a negative pushback. What we did spawned lots of organized efforts for constitutional amendments. Unfortunately in California, we lost that fight. But we’ve also done something much more important: we made people believe. We broke through that psychological barrier of separate but equal that had been set in front of the LGBT community, and in a sense, we made civil unions a mainstream position. 

Newsom is mayor of San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter.

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