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Gay Marriage, California Style

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KRIS PERRY SANDY STEIR
ASSOCIATED PRESS
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A few nights ago, I attended the New York Premiere of A Case Against 8, HBO's documentary about the Supreme Court case that resulted in California's Prop 8 being declared unconstitutional last June. As an in-every-spare-moment LGBT activist (my day job is as a film, television and theater producer), I was not a mere bystander at the event -- I am a founding board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group responsible for the case and I make brief appearances in the film (and, no, I won't be giving up that aforementioned day job to pursue a new career in front of the camera...)

I am very proud of the film, but most of all I am proud of our courageous and beautiful plaintiffs, Kris Perry and Sandy Steir and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarillo, who risked so much in making their private lives public to fight a battle that we all dreamed would ultimately benefit millions of LGBT Californians. Seeing the documentary, of course, brought back many memories of the five-year struggle from the time Prop 8 passed in 2008 until it was repealed on 2013. Perhaps the most vivid and emotional for me was the Friday in June, just two days after the ruling came down (SPOILER ALERT!) when we got the unexpected word that marriages were to begin again in California... immediately. My husband Gabe and I and our 2-year-old daughter were, by the most joyous of synchronicities, in San Francisco, where I was producing the world premiere of Andrew Lippa's stirring choral piece I Am Harvey Milk. I received a call out of the blue that morning from Adam Umhoefer, AFER's Executive Director, alerting us that there might be a reason to come down to the San Francisco City Hall later that day. That building was already near and dear to my heart, as we had shot several key scenes from Milk there in 2008.

Gabe and I were one of the 18,000 couples in California who had been married in that first brief window between May and November, 2008 when marriages were legal before Prop 8 was passed. How we did, indeed, get word that marriages in California were to begin again is wonderfully documented in the film. Witnessing Kamala Harris, the Attorney General of the State of California, marry Kris and Sandy in the grand rotunda in front of the hundreds of people who had spontaneously rushed there as the news spread, was one of the most profound and moving moments I have ever experienced. I will never forget turning to leave just after Kamala had declared "by the power vested in me by the state of California, I now pronounce you legally married," and running smack into the next two men already beginning their marriage vows. I burst into tears as it hit me that this was not just Kris and Sandy and Jeff and Paul who could now get legally married -- it was all LGBT citizens of the great state of California now and forever.

Jeff and Paul, meanwhile were at a simultaneous ceremony at Los Angeles City Hall being married by then L.A. mayor and longtime LGBT ally Antonio Villaraigosa. The ruling had come on the mayor's last day in office and Jeff and Paul were the last LGBT couple he would marry as mayor. As joyous synchronicity would have it, Gabe and I had been the first.