On Scene With Bill Wilson Happy Anniversary Edition

Photo A
Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin cut the wedding cake at the February 22, 2004 celebration of their marriage on February 12, 2004.

With the tenth anniversary of the start of the “Winter of Love” on February 12 I wondered about what I should write – another account of the day that changed my life? Should I rehash my journal entries for that day written while the emotion was still fresh? Then last night the answer came as I watched part of the famous “Cousin Liz” episode of “All in the Family.” Fernando and I laughed and shook our heads in amazement at the way in which this episode dealt with Edith’s Cousin Liz’ special friend. It wasn’t until the woman said it was like they were married that Edith understood the extent of their relationship.

Photo B

 Deputy Recorder/Assessor Minna Tao marries Bill Wilson and Fernando Orlandi on February 12, 2004

It was a reminder of how groundbreaking the show “All in the Family” was not just in terms of topics it dealt with, but also in ways that the writers understood how those issues would resonate with the public. 37 years after the episode aired Fernando and I recognized the same arguments being used against us by people like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and that Edith was standing up for compassion and pleading for kindness. This is my favorite exchange:

Archie: People like that teaching our kids, I’m sure God’s sittin’ up there in judgment!
Edith: Well, sure he is, but he’s God; you ain’t!

The show made we realize that I should write about the context of what got us to that magic moment when we first said “I do.” The journey from Domestic Partnership to legal marriage has been very personal, but it was also a legal battle to get our relationship recognized. San Francisco was in the forefront of those battles. Before the city issued marriage licenses there was Domestic Partnerships. My husband had been transferred from his job in Washington, DC to a job in Palo Alto for a year so we lived in San Francisco. It was during that year that Domestic Partnerships were first offered by San Francisco. We were among the first to register on February 14, 1991.

Photo C

Bill Wilson and Fernando Orlandi on February 14, 1991

I remember how far we have come when I look back at the scrapbook I kept from that day. The instructions on what Domestic Partnership meant read,

“THIS MAY NOT DO ALL THE THINGS YOU WANT… A domestic partnership isn’t the same as marriage. For instance, unless you have a will, your partner won’t get your property if you die…

THIS MAY DO THINGS YOU HADN’T COUNTED ON…A domestic partnership creates legal rights and duties. For example you have to make sure that your partner has food and a place to live if she or he can’t get these things…

Photo D

Governor Gray Davis signs the expanded Domestic Partnership Bill on September 19, 2003 at the SF LGBT Center.

In 2003 Governor Gray Davis came to San Francisco to sign the expanded Domestic Partnership bill giving all the rights of marriage to those registered as Domestic partners that the state of California could grant. We got to fill out a federal income tax forms as married so we could file state income as married, but we couldn’t file the federal tax forms as married so we had to fill out our federal income tax returns and file those separately. We knew exactly how much DOMA was costing us.

Photo E

Bill Wilson (left) and Fernando Orlandi (right) were married by Minna Tao ( second from right) on February 12, 2004 and by Mayor Newsom ( second from left) on June 17, 2008.

Since we had no plans to get married on February 12, 2004, because we didn’t know it was going to happen until we got to City Hall it wasn’t until we walked out of City Hall that I said to my husband, “Do you think I should call my Mother and let her know?”

When she answered the phone I said, “Fernando and I were married this morning.” With no pause she simply said, “Congratulations!”

Some day everyone will be allowed to have that experience no matter what state or country they live in.

Photo F

Family values.

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