On Scene with Bill Wilson: Valentine’s Day

This week contains two anniversaries for Fernando and me. On February 14, 1991 we were among the first people to become Domestic Partners. We expected long lines but when we arrived at City Hall at 8:40 we found no lines. We were the tenth couple to register as Domestic Partners. The excitement happened later that afternoon when all the couples came back to City Hall and had their turn down the central staircase in City Hall. My dominate memory of that occasion was the incredible cheers of the crowd as each couple was announced before they ascended the stairs and the inordinate fear that I would be the first to miss a step and fall down the steps.

William F. Wilson and Fernando P. Orlandi wait  for ceremony honoring Domestic Partners on February 14, 1991

It doesn’t seem possible that nine years have passed since Fernando and I became “Spouses for Life” on February 12, 2004. We were among the first to take advantage of Mayor Newsom’s decision to extend to same sex couples the right to marry. I can say that moment changed my life profoundly, but probably not in the way one might think. It didn’t change my love or my living arrangements. We had mingled our finances many years before so the commitment we made that day wasn’t new to us. What was new to us was the feeling that we were not second class any more.
When we walked out onto the steps of City Hall we weren’t Domestic Partners or bonded in Civil Union, we were married just like thousands who went before us and thousands who would follow us.


Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio leave San Francisco City Hall after their City Hall marriage in 1954.

As we walked down the steps of City Hall I turned to my husband and said that I should call my Mother and let her know. So I dialed her number and when she answered I told her we were married. I can still hear her next word. It was simply, “Congratulations!”


Minna Tao, Deputy Assessor/Recorder Wilson and Orlandi Spouses for Life February 12, 2004

Over the next few days it really hit me that I had never thought about getting married because I believed that wasn’t an option for me. I was willing to fight for Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions because I really felt that they were good enough. I never viewed them as the stepping stones to marriage equality. The profound change came as I examined my life with the new awareness- What else had I accepted that I could never do because I thought I wasn’t good enough?
To my fellow “null and void” marriage celebrants from 2004, Happy Nine Anniversary! To my fellow Domestic Partners in 1991, Happy 22nd Anniversary!

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