On Scene with Bill WIlson: Straight from the Archives

With all the recent publicity regarding same sex marriage at the United States Supreme Court it is hard to realize that it wasn’t too long ago that Domestic Partnerships were celebrated as a step forward. This trip to my archive features two players in what could be termed Marriage Equality alternatives – Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions.

California Governor Gray Davis signs the expanded Domestic Partnership bill at the LGBT Center in San Francisco.

On February 14, 1991 Fernando and I were the tenth couple to register as Domestic Partners in San Francisco. It came with little or no rights and was only valid in the 49 square miles known as the city and county of San Francisco, but it was legal recognition and it mattered to us. Gradually the state legislature recognized increased partnership rights culminating the passage of — that guaranteed all the rights of marriage just not the name.

The Rainbow Room on the second floor of the LGBT Center was extremely crowded on September 19, 2003 when California Governor Gray Davis came to sign AB 205 the expanded Domestic Partner Benefits Bill.   At first they let photographers sit on the floor in front of the first row, but then security overruled that. I was able to take an empty front row seat. You could feel the anticipation mount in the room and it erupted into cheers for Governor Davis and the politicians and staff members who joined him on stage. Everyone in that room recognized they were witnessing history, we just had no idea how soon it would become ancient history.


Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean during his tenure as chair of the Democratic National Committee.


I’m not sure how the concept of “civil unions” came to be, but it was the compromise that Vermont governor Howard Dean came up with when confronted with steering a court ordered marriage equality measure through the Vermont legislature. I freely admit that he did it with my support and my lobbying of my Vermont cousins. I viewed it as a necessary compromise I was willingly to make. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to be married on February 12, 2004 that I fully became aware of how willing I had been to accept “less than” all my life. Fernando and I shared the same love as my parents, yet it was not legally recognized by any government entity. Until those who say that marriage is just a word and that gay couples should accept something else are willing to change their marriages into civil unions, I see no reason to accept any other word than marriage for mine.


Paris Mayor Betrand Delanoe

While we, as Americans, battle over LGBT rights, the tide has also changed on the international level.  Thirteen countries from all over the world now recognize the marriage rights of gay and lesbians. Soon it may be possible to get married in romantic Paris in a ceremony presided over by their gay mayor.

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