America’s Sweetest Home Video


On the last day of the long lines at San Francisco City Hall, Damian Hess picked up a video camera and traced the queue of gay couples seeking the chance to marry. Around corner after corner, down stairs and hallways, he walked the thread of otherwise ordinary Americans. About 30 people from the end, he says, were his friends Anne and Flo.

The video clip is a little large for the Internet, but that’s Anne on the left. She and Flo used their license and got hitched on Friday, March 5—the same day city officials asked the California Supreme Court to let the weddings continue. Not quite a week later, on March 11, the court ordered the city to stop issuing licenses, saying it would hear the constitutional challenge in May or June.

Mayor Gavin Newsom had thrown open the window to marriage equality on February 12, and in the span of a month the city married more than 4,000 same-sex couples. Anne and Flo turned out on February 20, after which date the parade would slow to a crawl, with the city again requiring all couples to make an appointment at the marriage bureau.

“They let people into the building to stand in line from, I think, 8 a.m. until about 11, so from 11 on the line didn’t get any longer,” Hess writes. “Around 10:30 it was still swelling, and the mood was ecstatic. At 3, you can see that folks had grown pretty tired, but the atmosphere remained joyful. There were rumors going around that Chicago had started issuing licenses (it turned out that New Mexico had gotten a few out that afternoon) and there was generally an air of thrill and triumph.”

As courts and legislatures across the country weigh the public issue of marriage rights, such a very personal moment as Anne and Flo’s will bear remembering.  —Laura Conaway