That intense heavy silence like at a wedding when the vows are being read was evident on Valentine's day at the County Court's office. The onlookers leaned in and attuned themselves to the tone and emotional truth as each person declared their love for the other. County officials and policemen bowed their heads respectfully. Some onlookers wiped away tears. The journey of this couples relationships had obviously begun. Their love was real but no marriage licenses was issued by the county clerk, Victor Salazar. Mr. Salazar explained, “Due to the passage of Prop 8, I am not allowed to issue you a marriage license.”
One couple approached the counter and introduced their betrothed and declared their love before being turned away without a marriage license.
“What if I marry this woman," Jason Garrigus said, seemingly grabbing a woman from the crowd. “Would you issue a wedding license to us to be married?”
“Yes, we would,” Mr. Salazar said.
“Well, I don't love her. I love this man and I want to be married to this man,” Garrigus said.
Mr. Salazar later said, “When I took this office I took an oath. I am duty-bound to uphold the constitution...Even if I were to marry someone, it would not be valid.”
The couples went up one after another like soldiers charging a fortress but in war, you can see the enemy, here it is not visible. It was the law, a concept floating around that has stonewalled the LGBT community from joining in legal matrimony. This proposition keeps one group in and one group out.
Outside, lesbian, gay, transgender and supporters of same-sex marriage stood hugging and crying and laughing and regaining their energy and emotion as they supported each other and regrouped in their efforts.
Garrigus and his fiancée, David Zandt stood surrounded by television cameras and reporters. “It's important that we do this!” Garrigus proclaimed. “Marriage is a symbol to everyone of what we already feel together.”
Kate Baldridge saw the big picture as she stood beside her legally recognized domestic partner, Elizabeth Chase. “It hurts,” Baldridge said. “It's obviously painful. It doesn't feel good to walk up and be turned away. It is another thing that has to be done.” The County of Fresno and the state of California have to know that the LGBT community will not fade away or accept a second-class status. Baldridge and Chase had to pay an extra $23.00 for a domestic partner license in comparison to straight couples who file for domestic partnership. This fee funds research on LGBT domestic violence abuse. They begrudgingly paid but they are not satisfied. Domestic partners are not privileged with some 1200 federal rights that married couples are. Baldridge and Chase will play the system to beat the system. They'll be going to Iowa this summer to marry. They know the state of California will honor their marriage. “We want the legitimacy and the recognition to say 'this is my spouse or wife,' ”Baldridge said.
This 'legitimacy' is not a self-indulgent desire to be loved and accepted by all. This legitimacy is about the law. With this legitimacy comes all the privilege of ownership, inheritance and protection under the law. With this legitimacy, a gay, lesbian or transgender couple can marry and build an estate that their spouse is legally bound to.
Jason Scott from Marriage Equality USA explained the “The word 'marriage' has legitmacy and 'partnership' doesn't. Partnership means many different things. At a company level, employers from out-of-state companies have the option to offer benefits to partners. They have to give those benefits to spouses.”
The LGBT's and all the supporters of same-sex marriage in Fresno and in California are not going away. They are only reloading, aligning and preparing because they will return to the ballot box and this time they plan to tear down that wall.