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Goldberg and Partner Marry in San Francisco

State Sen. Sheila Kuehl presides over ceremonies for six same-sex couples who are united at City Hall.

March 09, 2004|Lee Romney | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — This city once again saw the melding of the personal and political Monday when state Sen. Sheila Kuehl presided over the marriages of six couples who have long been active in the gay and lesbian community, including Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg.

In back-to-back ceremonies on the steps of the City Hall rotunda, Kuehl, California's first openly gay state legislator, pronounced her close friends and political colleagues married to tears and shouts of jubilation.

Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) noted that the couples united in the afternoon ceremonies have been long-term partners. Among them were Goldberg (D-Los Angeles) and her partner of 28 years, poet and activist Sharon Stricker.

With their newlywed son and daughter-in-law standing by, Goldberg and Stricker quietly recited vows of their own to one another.

Goldberg dabbed tears from her eyes before the couple kissed and embraced to an eruption of cheers.

Goldberg is the author of AB 205, a sweeping domestic partner benefits law passed last year that goes into effect in January and promises many of the legal rights permitted to married heterosexual couples. Winning that victory was not easy, said Goldberg, who never imagined she would be clutching a marriage certificate just months later.

"It's now the conservative position," she joked of the domestic partner benefits law. "I've never been in the conservative position."

Goldberg said that if marriage is upheld as legal for same-sex couples and her hard-won law becomes obsolete "it won't break my heart." San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom last month ordered gender-neutral marriage licenses to be issued, arguing that to prohibit same-sex marriages violates the equal protection clause of the state Constitution.

The California Supreme Court could decide this week whether to intervene to determine the legality of the marriages.

If it opts to wait, a trial court will hear evidence beginning March 29. Ultimately, the state's high court will probably decide the matter.

"In my heart of hearts what I hope is that the California Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court recognize that equal protection is equal protection," Goldberg said.

Goldberg and Stricker met 28 years ago when both were schoolteachers with socialist leanings. Together they formed a study group on school desegregation to learn from the experiences of other cities, and then co-founded the Integration Project to push their agenda.

"Once we met, we knew," Stricker said of their love. But she said they never imagined marriage as possible for their generation. "It just seemed too far off," she said. "The struggles we had seemed too basic -- having a child, being accepted in the communities where we lived."

The other five couples married by Kuehl on Monday are all close friends of the legislator. Among them were Torie Osborn and her partner, Lydia Vaias. Osborn is executive director of the Santa Monica-based Liberty Hill Foundation and former director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The other couples were: Jehan Agrama and Dwora Fried; Patti Giggans and Ellen Ledley; Barrie Levy and Linda Garnets; and Avi Rose and Ron Strochlic.

Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) attended Monday's ceremonies to deliver a blessing in English and Hebrew to the six couples. Leno last month introduced a bill that would allow gay marriage in California by replacing the words "between a man and a woman" with "between two persons" in the family code section that defines marriage.

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