Till Court Do Us Part 

Six tales of marital bliss and cruel disappointment.

Page 3 of 9

Angela: There was a lot of stress really fast, like "What does it mean?" There were rumors that if you got married then your domestic partnership is invalid. We have a baby on the way, so I was like, oh my God, what if we lose our domestic partnership rights and then they don't acknowledge our marriage? Then we'll be really screwed!

Isobel: I know one couple who didn't get married because they were in the process of adopting and they didn't want to mess with it.

Angela: I had feelings about people making jokes like, "Now your baby is going to be legitimate,' or "You finally made an honest woman out of Isobel." I felt like, "We already had our real wedding!" We just had no rights associated with it. Like, I'm taking Isobel's last name so that we have a family name. If we had the right to be married I could have changed my name for the cost of the marriage certificate. It's a process I'm doing to try to help ensure that the world sees our family as a family.

What's next for you?

Angela: I really hope to have the second baby. My hormones were just going crazy even before Isobel got pregnant. I've had way more pregnancy symptoms than she has! I'm so attached to the baby already that sometimes I get teary-eyed just thinking about her. I always do this joke where I'm like, "My turn! Let me carry her!'" [She lunges for Isobel's stomach.]

So, would you do it again?

Angela: We'll do it ten more times if that's what it takes, going down to City Hall and continuing to show that we want this and need this and deserve this.

Isobel: I know our daughter and our second child will be proud of us for what we did here. And I would hope that she would tell the story to her kids: "I was there! When your grandmas got married, I was in utero!"


Wendy & Belinda
Wendy Daw, 37, acupuncturist
Belinda Ryan, 40, helicoptor pilot, aerial photographer
Years Together: 7

Belinda is a British citizen from Wales here on an employer-sponsored H1-B work visa. Because their marriage is not federally recognized, Wendy cannot sponsor Belinda for US citizenship. Although the Fremont couple has registered as domestic partners, they haven't had the time for a private ceremony, or the money -- they've spent more than $20,000 trying to extend Belinda's visa. Belinda's visa extensions expire in April 2006, and she'll have to leave the country. Wendy plans to leave, too.

Wendy: I think we all got maybe four hours of sleep because we planned to be at City Hall at 6:30 in the morning.

Belinda: We were actually fourth in line. We watched the sun rise over the city.

Wendy: It was so impromptu. We didn't even have rings. We haven't bought rings yet for each other because we spend all our money on immigration attorneys!

At some point in my early adult life, I knew I wasn't going to marry a man, so I always drew lines around how involved I would get with whomever I went out with. I had never lived with anybody before Belinda, and for me that was the line: If I choose to live with someone, that's tantamount to me saying I've married you. So from the moment I handed her the key and she moved in, I'd made that commitment. But we hadn't done that publicly. So when we stood there in front of our friends and we got married, what I was really struck by, moved by -- shaken by, actually -- was that wow, this is real. It actually kind of freaked me out a little bit. It was like, wow, I've married you. That felt very big. That felt very final. It was really a huge step in my life.

What's next for you?

Belinda: We've got a country we can go to. Because of my British passport I can take Wendy back there. If I was from Asia or the Middle East, Wendy as an American probably wouldn't be able to get into the country. Plus you couldn't live there as a gay couple without severe difficulties.

Wendy: There are actually sixteen countries that will recognize our relationship simply for the purposes of immigration: South Africa, Israel, Brazil, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and other European countries. We could potentially go just about anywhere in Europe together, I think. People say, "Wow, cool, you could live in Europe! Why don't you just go?" Well, sure, if we were making the decision that that's what we wanted to do. But when you're not making the choice and you're doing it because you're being forced to, it becomes not so fun, and not an adventure. It becomes dreadful.

Belinda: We've become a lot more aware of how many rights we weren't getting specifically with regard to immigration because we couldn't get married. Wendy isn't allowed to sponsor me. Unlike another American who falls in love with a foreigner, because we're same-sex, Wendy is facing the prospect of having to live in exile.

Wendy: I'm American -- I've grown up with the knowledge that I can pretty much live wherever I want to, do whatever I want to, solve whatever problem comes up. Now I've run into a situation that says that every single one of those things that I've been taught to believe is incorrect. Not for everybody -- just for me and people like me. The US will grant asylum to gays and lesbians who are being persecuted in their country of origin, which is wonderful. But that same government and immigration system is telling me that to stay with the person I have committed my life to, I have to leave. That doesn't make any sense. All we want is the opportunity to go through the same process that any heterosexual couple would go through to get permanent residency. We want the interviews, dammit! I want you to ask me which end of the toothpaste tube she squeezes! I want you to ask me what kind of shampoo she uses and which way she puts her underwear on. C'mon, bring it on!

Did you hope getting married in San Francisco could solve your problem?

Belinda: No, because it won't.

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