Davina Kotulski

Blog Hearts, Flowers & Handcuffs: Sitting-Down For Equality on Valentine's Day

Filed By Davina Kotulski | February 20, 2011 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: blog hearts, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, Valentine's Day

On Valentine's Day we went to San Francisco City Hall and asked for a marriage license. Well, more like we said, "We want you to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples again."

same-sex-couple.jpgIt was the 10th time since 2001 that we've done this. From 2001-2006 we went to San Francisco City Hall and asked for a marriage license. In 2004, Mayor Newsom surprised us by allowing us to marry, but the California Supreme Court invalidated that marriage license later that year so we were back in 2005 and were once again turned away.

In 2007, I didn't go. We were not getting along well that year.

Thank God for amazing couples therapists and psychologist John Gottman's amazing book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail (yes, if you are in a relationship you should own a copy). Our reward for weathering the storm was that we fell even deeper in love and were able to legally marry the following year in 2008 on our 12th anniversary.

As former PFLAG president Sam Thoron says "If you want to have a long happy marriage, don't leave or die." Well, I'm proud that we didn't do either and we were back the next year ready to do it again with feeling and thrilled to say 'I do' and get our marriage license. This time it stayed valid and is recognized in our state - but not by the feds. Sadly, Prop 8 passed and the following Valentine's Day, the marriage license counter was once again shut down for our families!

In fact, no same-sex couple in California has had a chance to have a Valentine's Day wedding (that wasn't later invalidated) and asking is not enough anymore.

We've been asking for over a decade and we are denied marriage licenses. For those of who are married, our marriages are not recognized by the federal government (denied 1,138 rights) and other same-sex couples married after Prop 8 passed cannot marry or have their legal marriages recognized in California.

We have waited far too patiently and now we are being asked to wait again while the California State Supreme Court considers the issue of standing sometime in May - with a ruling to be issued sometime months later.

I am tired of waiting; I'm tired of asking and being told that they are not going to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Check out these videos to see how wrong this denial is.

Valentine's Day Rallies Across the Globe

On Valentine's Day we engaged in a Sit In for Equality

This Valentine's Day, eighteen of us sat down on the floor in the San Francisco County Recorder's Office next to the marriage license counter. We faced each other in a circle and clasped hands and began singing "What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love!"

We were same-sex couples, three lesbian couples, two gay male couples, four ministers, some straight, some LGBT, and four single love warrior activists.

The police officers got on the bullhorn and asked for our attention. We were told if we didn't disperse we would be arrested. We continued to sing. They asked us to leave a second time. We continued to sing.

It felt really good, so natural to be sitting on the floor of the marriage license counter and looking into the eyes of my fellow love warriors as we took a stand by sitting down for marriage equality. It was invigorating.

We were peaceful, we smiled at one another. We were calm, although a bit nervous, after all, there were 10 cops with plastic right gear handcuffs surrounding us.

It felt good just to sing the truth.

"What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It's the only thing that there's just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. No, not just for some, but for everyone."

The truth is some people don't love us and they don't see our love as love; they don't see the value or the beauty of the love between two men or two women. But we were lucky that the people who work at San Francisco City Hall do.

They've seen us year after year, rally after rally. They married some of us in 2004 and 2008. They know how we've been harmed by marriage denial and the denial of marriage benefits. One police officer even had to wipe his eyes as did a few of the folks in the sit-in when the cops finally put the cuffs on us and marched us out of the marriage license office.

Some people asked, "Was it hard to do it?"

I said, "It wasn't hard at all when the consequences were that I get to be handcuffed to the woman I love."

But once a year is not enough to make much of a difference. Discrimination occurs at the marriage license counter 365 days of the year. What if on tax day, April 18th, LGBT people and allies did sit-ins at the marriage license counter offices around the country?

We are denied 1,138 federal rights, our marriages are not recognized in all 50 states, we are unable to marry in all 50 states. We are forced to check "single" on our federal tax forms regardless if we are legally married or how many years we've been in a committed relationship.

What if on April 18th we all got together and walked into our county clerk's offices and sat down for equality and refused to leave? How many more years are we willing to wait to be full citizens under the law?

When will we stand up for what we believe in by shutting down business as usual until we are treated equally by those in the marriage business?

Are you ready to turn up the volume on the gay rights movement with peaceful civil disobedience? Are you willing to be arrested for LGBT rights by sitting in for your equality in a non-violent action?

What are your thoughts?

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I'm so grateful for all the work you've put into marriage equality over the years, Davina.


Great article. I love the woman in the first video who issued the IOU and said, "when the time comes, it will be my JOY to offer you a marriage certificate!"

Just wanted to mention that the Gay Couples Institute in San Francisco was founded and is run by one of our wonderful Certified Gottman Therapists, Salvatore (Sam) Garanzini. You can find more information on their website, here: http://www.gaycouplesinstitute.org/index.htm

You can also find out more about Dr. Gottman's research focused on same-sex couples on our website, here: http://www.gottman.com/49850/Gay--Lesbian-Research.html

Cheers and best of luck,

Director of Professional Development
The Gottman Institute

Ellen Sturtz | February 21, 2011 4:23 PM

Hi Davina,

Thanks for the wonderful account of your arrest. After years of being Ms. Nice Lesbian, I am ready to be arrested, again and again, as long as it takes to for our community to see full equality.

Over the last few weeks, in an ultra-informal survey, I have asked people my age (54) and older if they would be willing to be arrested for gay and lesbian rights. Almost all of them have answered with enthusiasm, “Yes!!.”

Having been raised in the 60's and 70's marching down 5th Avenue for one cause or another, it is time for the baby boomers to put our bodies on the line, not only our names on the signature line of a check or petition. Without having to worry about losing my job, this is a perfect time in my life to get serious about civil disobedience.

Are we ready for a Boomer Brigade? Please count me in.

Ellen Sturtz
Arrested for the first time 1/30/11