One Couple Looks Back 15 Years after Newsom’s Same-Sex Marriage Order

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DAVIS — Fifteen years ago to the day, Gov. Gavin Newsom made national headlines when, as mayor of San Francisco, he ordered the city clerk to allow same-sex marriages.

It was a moment many same-sex marriage advocates say started their revolution.

Together for 45 years, Shelly Bailes and Ellen Pontac said a lot has changed since they first started living together in 1974, when marriage was far from their minds.

“We were both getting divorced at the time that we got together and both our lawyers individually told us that if we told anybody about the fact we were living together the way we were, they would take our kids out of our home,” Bailes told FOX40.

But years later, they felt they no longer had to hide their love.

On Feb. 12, 2004, they heard about what then Mayor Newsom was allowing in San Francisco. So they rushed to City Hall.

“They looked at us and they said, ‘Are you guys going to get married?’ And we both, at the same time, looked at each other and we said, ‘I guess so,'” Bailes said.

FOX40 was there as the newlyweds returned home to Davis.

But just a few months afterward, the California Supreme Court ruled against Newsom’s move and Bailes and Pontac were forced to have their wedding annulled.

“It was devastating,” Bailes said.

However, in June of 2008, their chance came again after the state Supreme Court struck down a state law banning same-sex marriages.

In June of 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry, guaranteed by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

“I just feel like any other married couple,” Pontac told FOX40. “I feel luckier because I have her.”

During years of advocating for same-sex couple rights, both Bailes and Pontac say they often ran into those who disagreed with them. They soon learned the best way to deal with people who don’t believe they should be allowed to be married.

“So instead of yelling and screaming, which doesn’t feel good to us, we would kiss in front of them,” Bailes said. “We came to them with love. They came to us with hatred.”

On their first wedding’s 15th anniversary, they wanted to deliver the following message.

“If you want to get married, get married. It’s wonderful,” Bailes said.

Both Bailes and Pontac say that if it wasn’t for Gov. Newsom allowing them to marry in 2004 they might still be fighting for that right.


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