I drove to the Woodland County Courthouse and got there early, in time to mail a package at the post office across the street. I thought it odd that there were no protest trucks in front of the courthouse. I'd been to the Valentine Day actions before and there were always big trucks with big signs talking about abomination and sin and people going to hell and quoting scripture. One year there was a gang of what can only be described as Russian thugs--mean, strong looking guys with abomination signs who glared at us and who had to be removed by security. One year a guy ran through the building shouting "abomination" and had to be taken out by security.
I went into the courthouse to greet the group of same gender couples that was starting to assemble in the lobby. I asked someone about the protesters and she said that it was probably too early and they would probably be there later. It was a stranger group than the last time I attended because some of these couples were legally married, but many were not.
Reporters started to show up, with their cameras and their notebooks and began to interview Shelly and Ellen. I loved it that the Fox reporter was wearing a Marriage Equality sticker on his jacket.
When Yolo County Recorder, Freddie Oakley, appeared, they interviewed her too.
Freddie has always been very supportive of same gender marriages and made all the news a couple of years ago when she handed out apologies to couples who came on Valentine's Day asking for marriage licenses. Today she handed out IOUs and explained to reporters that it was for not being able to give them the 1,138 rights and responsibilites enjoyed by opposite-sex couples but not available for same-sex couples.
She expained that only a few of those rights included a survivor being able to collect Social Security benefits , workers' compensation or public assistance benefits; spousal insurance benefits through one's employer; Veterans benefits (dependency and indemnity compensation, monthly pension, medical care) when one's spouse is in the Armed forces. Same sex couples can't get spousal benefits through Medicare or have medical decision-making power or hospital visitation rights. There is no protection for families of crime victims. Same sex spouses cannot immigrate to the US. There is no family reunification for asylum seekers.
The list goes on and on. There was one young lesbian couple there who had never heard of some of these rights that are denied to them by virtue of their being unable to be married....or if they are able to be married in some states, the federal government does not recognize the marriages.
The event was dedicated to Linda Waite, a tireless fighter for LGBT causes, who died last month after a lengthy battle with brain cancer.
Linda's wife, Judy St. George (they were legally married in Massachusetts, and again in California) was at the gathering and said that this event had been described as an event to demonstrate the gay community's frustration, but she said that she wasn't frustrated, she was furious about the way she was treated for so many years before she and Linda were allowed to be married. Her speech was very moving and I was upset that my video card filled up before she had finished, though I was able to record most of it.
Several couples presented themselves to the office asking for marriage licenses. Freddie politely apologized to each one and gave them her IOUs.
When it was over, there was cake for all.
There were still no protestors outside when I left but then I saw a lone woman across the street holding a poster-sized cardboard. With my bad eyes, I couldn't read what was written on it, so I crossed the street and approached her.
It was a flattened special delivery box she had just purchased at the post office.
There was no protest at all.
I hope that's a good sign. But I'm not going to hold my breath.